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United States of America v. Ronald Waytt
Case Number: 5:20-cr-20409-JEL-APP
Judge: Judith E. Levy
Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (Wayne County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States District Attorney’s Office, Detroit, Michigan
Description: Detroit, MI - Criminal Defense Lawyer, Obstruction of Religious Belief
The United States of America charged Ronald Waytt with obstruction of religious belief by threatening physical harm to a female victim, T.P., to obstruct T.P.’s free exercise of religion. As part of his plea agreement, Wyatt admitted that he targeted T.P., who is African-American, because of her race.
t the plea hearing, Wyatt admitted that, on July 23, 2019, he used Facebook to send T.P. a written message that threatened: “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 located in Taylor, Michigan. Wyatt admitted that, by sending the threatening message, he acted intentionally to obstruct T.P.’s free exercise of her religious beliefs. Wyatt further admitted that he threatened T.P. because she is African-American, and that he intended for T.P. to understand his message as a threat.
“No American should face threats towards their life or the lives of their loved ones based on their race or religion” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “These actions are reprehensible. The Justice Department takes these matters very seriously and works to ensure that those who perpetrate these actions see justice under the law.”
“The defendant’s actions in this case are truly reprehensible,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan. “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.”
"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,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono, of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “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.”
Pursuant to the plea agreement, sentencing will take place in one year. He faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frances Carlson, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, and Trial Attorney Risa Berkower, of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
DAMAGE TO RELIGIOUS PROPERTY/OBSTRUCTION OF RELIGIOUS BELIEF
Outcome: 09/23/2020 Minute Entry for proceedings before Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford: Arraignment as to Ronald Wyatt (1) Count 1 held on 9/23/2020 Disposition: Not Guilty plea entered. (Court Reporter: Digitally Recorded) (Defendant Attorney: Colleen Fitzharris) (AUSA: Frances Carlson) (AFla) (Entered: 09/23/2020)
09/23/2020 26 Public Audio File of Arraignment as to Ronald Wyatt held on 09/23/2020 before Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford. AUDIO FILE SIZE (1.7 MB) (KBro) (Entered: 09/23/2020)
09/23/2020 Minute Entry for proceedings before District Judge Judith E. Levy: Plea Hearing as to Ronald Wyatt held on 9/23/2020; Disposition: Guilty plea entered. (Court Reporter: Darlene May) (Defendant Attorney: Colleen Fitzharris) (AUSA: Frances Carlson, Linda Aouate, Risa Berkower) (WBar) (Entered: 09/23/2020)
09/23/2020 27 ORDER APPOINTING FEDERAL COMMUNITY DEFENDER as to Ronald Wyatt. Signed by Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford. (KBro) (Entered: 09/23/2020)