A man from Michigan has been sentenced to 10 months in federal prison and one year of supervised release for his involvement in a scheme to intimidate Black Lives Matter supporters during the summer of 2020. The U.S. Justice Department declared on Wednesday that the man left nooses and threatening notes around his neighborhood, in addition to making racist phone calls.
Federal prosecutors said that 62-year-old Kenneth D. Pilon admitted guilt on two misdemeanour charges in December for his role in intimidating and trying to intimidate persons from participating in legal speech and rallies in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mr. Pilon, a retired optometrist, allegedly placed nine phone calls to Michigan Starbucks locations on June 14, instructing the staff who responded to use racial obscenities towards customers wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts. They also said he informed one worker he meant to lynch a Black person. Two days before, Starbucks had declared that it would ship Black Lives Matter T-shirts to its locations after originally banning staff from wearing merchandise with the slogan because it may “amplify divisiveness.”
A month later, Mr. Pilon also placed five nooses in various locations throughout Saginaw, Michigan, including four in parking lots and one at a 7-Eleven, with handwritten messages reading, “An accessory to be worn with your ‘BLM’ t-shirt. Happy protesting, the Justice Department wished.
Court records from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan show that four further counts stemming from unrelated but analogous incidents were dismissed.
“A noose is a symbol of hatred that evokes the darkest days of our country’s past,” said Dawn N. Ison, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. Its placement is an attempt to instill fear among certain members of our community, but we will not stand for threats of violence based on race.
In a statement, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice Kristen Clarke said that threats of violence had “no place in civilised society.”
Attorney Barry A. Wolf, who represented Mr. Pilon, could not be contacted for comment on Wednesday night but said in a sentencing letter earlier this month that his client was “deeply remorseful and embarrassed by his actions.”
According to Mr. Wolf’s memorandum, Mr. Pilon had no criminal record prior to 2020, but that year he experienced a “perfect storm” of physical pain, social isolation, and untreated mental health problems, which led him to become obsessed with news of the civil unrest and lash out with racist and intimidating behaviour.
In an interview on Wednesday, Regina Simon, whose then-husband discovered one of the nooses in his vehicle in Saginaw, said that the sentence was a step in the right way for the court in terms of taking the rights of the marginalised seriously. She also said that Mr. Pilot’s claim that he became sick from seeing coverage of political protests on television was “not a good enough excuse.”