SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) — A retired Michigan optometrist faces federal charges for allegedly leaving nooses and notes mocking the Black Lives Matter movement inside a couple’s truck and near or inside stores as well as placing threatening phone calls.
Kenneth David Pilon, 61, of Saginaw, is charged with six counts of interfering with federally protected activities — a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and fines, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.
The charges allege that “Pilon intimidated and attempted to intimidate citizens from participating lawfully in speech and peaceful assembly opposing the denial of Black people’s right to enjoy police protection and services free from brutality,” an FBI special agent wrote in an affidavit.
Pilon’s attorney, Barry Wolf, was not readily available for comment, the Detroit Free Press reported. The Associated Press left a message Thursday for Wolf requesting comment on the charges.
Federal prosecutors allege that on June 14, 2020, Pilon used racial slurs while calling nine Starbucks stores in Michigan about workers who might be wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts.
Those calls came days after Starbucks announced it was producing about 250,000 Black Lives Matter shirts for employees to wear if they wanted to express support for the movement following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
In one call to a Starbucks store, Pilon allegedly used a racial slur when telling a staffer he planned to lynch someone, according to the court filing.
Then, between June 22, 2020, and July 17, 2020, prosecutors said Pilon left five nooses in Saginaw with handwritten notes reading: “An accessory to be worn with your ‘BLM’ t-shirt. Happy protesting!” Those nooses were left in parking lots in and outside Goodwill, Walmart and Kroger stores, inside a 7-Eleven store and inside a vehicle owned by a Saginaw couple.
That couple, Regina and Donald Simon, told the Free Press that Donald Simon found the noose and note inside his truck one day after they had spent time playing with their puppy in their front yard as they were both wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts.
“I opened my door, and when I looked at it, then I looked at it again, I was amazed,” said Donald Simon, who is Black, adding that he was overcome with anger and confusion at the sight of the noose. “I was in shock. I thought, ‘Is this really what I think it is?'”
After discovering the noose, the couple posted what happened on Facebook, along with a photo of what was found in the truck.
“He was bringing hate to my front door, and that really bothered us,” said Regina Simon, who is Mexican and white. “We’re not hateful people. That really shock me right there.”