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Michigan Man Pleads Guilty to Hate Crimes for Death Threats Targeting Black Lives Matter Supporters

The Justice Department announced that Kenneth Pilon, 61, has pleaded guilty in federal district court to willfully intimidating and attempting to intimidate citizens from engaging in lawful speech and protests in support of Black Lives Matter. Pilon will be sentenced on March 23, 2023.

Pilon pleaded guilty to two hate crime charges. Specifically, he pleaded guilty to count 1 of the filed information, which charged him with violating the law by calling nine Starbucks stores in Michigan and telling the employees answering his calls to relay specifically racial threats to Starbucks employees wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts. Pilon threatened to kill Black people, using a racial slur to refer to his intended victims.

Pilon also pleaded guilty to count 4 of the filed information, which charged him with violating the law by placing a noose inside a vehicle owned by R.S. and D.S. Attached to the noose was a handwritten note, reading: “An accessory to be worn with your ‘BLM’ t-shirt. Happy protesting!”

“The defendant levied racially-motivated death threats against multiple Black people wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The defendant also used a noose, a vile symbol of hatred and violence that harkens back to the Jim Crow era, to convey a threat of racial violence. Racially-driven threats of violence simply have no place in our society today, and the Department of Justice will continue to prosecute any individual who engages in this type of threatening conduct.”

“The actions of this defendant were threatening to an entire community,” said U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison for the Eastern District of Michigan. “We hope this conviction sends the message that this type of activity is criminal, and that we will take the necessary action to protect the people of our district.”

“Hate crimes of this nature are meant to not only threaten the victim, but to intimidate an entire community. Because of this wide-ranging impact, hate crime investigations are among the FBI’s highest priorities,” said Special Agent in Charge James A. Tarasca of the FBI Detroit Field Office. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate these crimes and to seek justice for the victims and their communities.”

The FBI investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Turkelson for the Eastern District of Michigan and Trial Attorney Tara Allison of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.

Source: USDOJ