Michigan man pleads guilty to hate crime charges

September 23, 2020

By a Biometrica staffer

Ronald Wyatt, 22, pleaded guilty to intentionally threatening physical harm to a female victim, and to obstructing her religious freedom. Wyatt admitted that he targeted his African-American victim because of her race in his plea agreement, the US Department of Justice said in a statement.

Wyatt admitted that on July 23 2019 he used Facebook to send the victim – whom the DoJ identifies only by her initials (T.P.) – a threatening written message. The message read: “See you at church on Wednesday night with my AK to put you and your [expletive] family down [expletive].” T.P. regularly attends a church in Taylor, Michigan.

The perpetrator, a resident of Michigan, also admitted he acted intentionally to obstruct T.P.’s free exercise of her religious beliefs by sending the message. He said he threatened T.P. because she is African-American, and intended her to understand his message as a threat.

Mr. Wyatt used threats of violence to terrorize an innocent woman and as a result hindered the victim’s ability to freely practice her religion. Hate crimes like this one have profound effects not only on the victims, but also on their families and communities, making them feel vulnerable and unsafe. No arrest or conviction can undo the harm, but will hopefully provide a measure of justice for the victim, her family and her community.

Special Agent in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono, of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office

Wyatt’s sentencing will take place in a year, pursuant to the plea agreement. He faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

The defendant’s actions in this case are truly reprehensible. Although the First Amendment protects free speech, it doesn’t give anyone the right to obstruct the free exercise of religious beliefs by threatening violence or bodily harm. Prosecuting those who violate the civil rights of Michigan citizens is some of the most important work we do. This plea today is the first step towards justice for this innocent victim.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan