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Department of Justice
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 20, 2022

Washington Man Charged with Hate Crime for Shooting and Damaging Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall

A Washington man was indicted today by a federal grand jury in Seattle, Washington, in connection with a May 15, 2018, shooting that damaged a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall.

Mikey Diamond Starrett, aka Michael Jason Layes, 50, of Olympia, Washington, was charged in a superseding indictment with one count of damage to religious property, including the use of a dangerous weapon. He also was charged with one count of use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. The original indictment charged the defendant with one count of unlawful possession of an unregistered firearm.

According to the indictment, on or about May 15, 2018, the defendant used a semi-automatic rifle to deface, damage and destroy religious real property at the Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall of Yelm, Washington, because of the religious character of the property.

If convicted, the defendant faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison on the charge of damage to religious property involving the use of a dangerous weapon. If convicted on the unlawful possession of an unregistered firearm charge, the defendant faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. The defendant faces a sentence of at least 10 years in prison to run consecutive to any sentence imposed for the remaining firearms offense. 

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Nick Brown for the Western District of Washington made the announcement.

The ATF Seattle Field Division, the FBI Seattle Office and the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office investigated the matter. Trial Attorney Matthew Tannenbaum of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca S. Cohen for the Western District of Washington are prosecuting the case. 

For more information and resources about the department’s work to combat hate crimes, visit www.justice.gov/hatecrimes.

An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Hate Crimes
Press Release Number: 
22-1143
Updated October 24, 2022