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Press Release

Maine Man Pleads Guilty to Sending Racist Death Threats to Black Family in His Apartment Complex

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A Maine man pleaded guilty today to one count of threatening communications in interstate commerce for sending racist death threats to a Black family living in his apartment complex.

According to court documents, in August 2022, Charles Allen Barnes, 46, of Lewiston, used Facebook Messenger to record and transmit a racial-slur-laden voice message in which he threatened, in graphic and violent terms, to kill his neighbor. In the message, Barnes made repeated derogatory references to the neighbor’s race and stated that he was waiting in his car outside the neighbor’s apartment and would kill the next person who emerged from it. Barnes then sent the recording to an acquaintance of his whom he knew to be close personal friends with the neighbor. Alarmed by the message’s contents, the acquaintance forwarded the recording to Barnes’s neighbor, to warn her of possible danger from Barnes.

“Charles Barnes thought that hiding behind a social media account would shield him from the consequences of terrorizing his neighbors with vile, racist death threats, but he was wrong,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Racially-motivated death threats and acts of violence are unacceptable in our society today. The Justice Department will continue to thoroughly investigate and vigorously prosecute anyone who carries out threats or acts of bias-motivated violence in our country.”

“Hate of any kind will not be tolerated in Maine,” said U.S. Attorney Darcie N. McElwee for the District of Maine. “With our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine will diligently pursue justice for victims of racial harassment, threats, and violence. Barnes’ conduct is not representative of how we treat our neighbors in Maine. Protecting civil rights is one of our highest priorities.”

“Charles Barnes admitted today to using his words as a weapon and making violent, racist threats against his neighbor,” said Special Agent in Charge Jodi Cohen of the FBI Boston Division. “Threats to life are most certainly not protected speech, and the FBI will continue to work with our partners to bring to justice anyone who crosses the line and commits this type of crime.”

A sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date. Barnes faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. If the judge determines that Barnes intentionally selected the victim of his crime because of the victim’s race, a sentencing enhancement will be applied.

The FBI Boston Field Office, Lewiston Police Department and the Maine Attorney General’s Office investigated the case.

Trial Attorney Alec Ward of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheila Sawyer for the District of Maine are prosecuting the case.

Updated March 18, 2024

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 24-310