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Press Release

Michigan Man Sentenced to 10 Months in Federal Prison for Hate Crimes Targeting Black Lives Matter Supporters

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan

WASHINGTON – A Michigan man was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Ludington to 10 months in federal prison and one-year supervised release for a series of hate crimes he committed in June and July of 2020.

According to court records, Kenneth D. Pilon, 62, previously pleaded guilty to willfully intimidating and attempting to intimidate citizens from engaging in lawful speech and protests in support of Black Lives Matter. Specifically, Pilon admitted to calling nine Starbucks stores in mid and southeast Michigan and telling the employees answering his calls to tell Starbucks employees wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts that “the only good n***er is a dead n***er.” Pilon also admitted to telling one employee, “I’m gonna go out and lynch me a n***er.” Additionally, over the course of the next month, Pilon left four nooses in parking lots and a fifth noose inside of a 7-Eleven store. Pilon attached each noose to a handwritten note, reading: “An accessory to be worn with your ‘BLM’ t-shirt. Happy protesting!”

“The nooses, the threat letters, and the calls to Starbucks were all intended to terrorize the targeted victims solely because of their race,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will always stand up to race-based threats of violence, which have no place in civilized society.”

“A noose is a symbol of hatred that evokes the darkest days of our country’s past.  Its placement is meant to terrorize a part of our community, but we will not tolerate these race-based threats. Our office stands ready to vigorously investigate and prosecute criminal violations of our civil rights laws,” said U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison for the Eastern District of Michigan.

“Pilon’s hateful conduct, motivated by racial intolerance, was intended to intimidate the victims as well as create fear within the African-American community,” said Special Agent in Charge James A. Tarasca of the FBI Detroit Field Office. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will ensure that if a crime is motivated by bias, it will be investigated as a hate crime and the perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions.”

The FBI Detroit Field Office investigated the case. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Turkelson for the Eastern District of Michigan and Trial Attorney Tara Allison of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case

Updated April 19, 2023

Civil Rights