DETROIT – Nine months after a Black teenager had his teeth smashed out at a Michigan beach, the man who pummeled his face with a bike chain admitted in federal court that his actions were about hate, attacking the teen because of his race.
Lee Mouat, 43, of Newport, Michigan, faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to willfully causing bodily injury to an 18-year-old because of the teen’s race. He entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Stephen J. Murphy, III.
The incident happened at Sterling State Park in Monroe, where Mouat confronted a group of Black teenagers, including the victim, Devin Freelon Jr., 18.
Court records show that before Mouat pulled out the bike chain, he told Freelon that Blacks weren’t welcome at the beach and that Black lives don’t matter.
The plea agreement, court records and police statements show how the incident unfolded on June 6.
It was about 7:45 p.m. when Freelon heard an unfamiliar man yelling a racial slur in the beach parking lot.
Freelon was retrieving a portable speaker from a vehicle while Mouat yelled racial slurs at his two friends and then started walking toward Freelon, eventually pulling out a bike lock and striking him in the face with it.
According to multiple witnesses, Mouat was upset about the teens playing music, and was making racial comments about the teens as he walked toward the park with his family.
One witness said they heard Mouat say, “I wish someone would say something to me so I can beat them.”
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Several minutes later, a commotion broke out in the parking lot, where Mouat allegedly told the group “Black Lives Don’t Matter” before going to his van and retrieving his bike lock.
A witness said they were anticipating a fight, but at one point, Mout walked away, commenting: “I’ve got something for you in my car.”
The witness assumed Mouat was leaving with his family. Instead, Mouat returned with the bike chain, swung it at the 18-year-old’s face knocking him to the ground and swung at the witness but missed.
In his plea agreement, Mouat admitted that he repeatedly hurled racial slurs at the group and said that Black people had no right to use the public beach. Then he struck the teen in the face with a bike lock, knocking out several of his teeth, cutting his face and mouth, and fracturing his jaw. He also admitted to trying to strike another Black teen with the bike lock, but missing.
“Hate-fueled incidents like this one have no place in a civilized society,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Pamela Karlan said in a statement Tuesday.
“The young victim in this case suffered tremendously from this vicious, racially motivated attack,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin for the Eastern District of Michigan. “Every individual citizen has the right to not live in fear of violence or attack based on the color of their skin.”
Detroit’s FBI chief Timothy Waters added: “Mouat’s hateful and violent conduct, motivated by racial intolerance, was intended to physically harm the victim as well as create fear within the African-American community … We encourage anyone who has been the victim of or witness to such a crime to report it to the FBI.”
Mouat is to be sentenced on June 24. In addition to facing up to 10 years in prison, he also faces a fine of up to $250,000.