A white Michigan man who pleaded guilty to beating a Black teenager with a metal bike lock said he attacked the teen because of his race.
Lee James Mouat, 43, was charged with a federal hate crime in the June 6, 2020, attack in the parking lot of Sterling State Park in Monroe, Michigan. The victim, identified by local media as Devin Freelon Jr., suffered facial injuries and several of his teeth were knocked out when Mouat struck him with the lock.
Mouat, who pleaded guilty Tuesday, confronted the victim and two of his friends at the park after complaining about loud music. The plea agreement states that Mouat made a comment about the group's "ghetto" music, yelled "Black lives don't matter," called the teens the N-word and said Black people did not belong at the Sterling State Park beach.
He then walked to his vehicle and retrieved a "metal chain-style bike lock" and walked back toward the group.
"Mouat then swung and struck D.F. in the face with the bike lock, knocking out three of D.F.’s teeth, lacerating D.F.’s face and mouth, and fracturing his jaw," the plea agreement states. "Mouat also swung the bike lock at a second Black teenager, T.G., but missed. Mouat continued to wield the bike lock and walk toward T.G. while saying, 'Come here, n-----.'"
The court document says Mouat attacked the teens "because of D.F.’s and T.G.’s race."
"That is, Mouat willfully caused bodily injury to D.F., and attempted to cause bodily injury to T.G., because they are Black," it reads.
Freelon told an FBI agent that he was at the park with his friends and heard Mouat shouting racial slurs at them, according to a criminal complaint.
The teen said he went to his car to get a portable speaker and when he returned to where his friends were standing, Mouat walked toward him and "swung an object," hitting him in the face.
Monroe County Sheriffs Office deputies arrived several minutes after the attack. Freelon was taken to the hospital to be treated for lacerations and a fracture to his face and the loss of several teeth.
Devin Freelon Sr. told NBC affiliate WDIV-TV that his son, 19, required dental procedures.
"It’s definitely been hard seeing your son every day with missing teeth and only 19 years. Nobody should go through that,” he said.
Multiple witnesses at the park told authorities that prior to the attack they heard Mouat using racial slurs and threatening to harm the teens. According to one witness, Mouat said that he wished "someone would say something to me so I can beat them," the criminal complaint says.
Another witness said Mouat threatened to bash the teens' heads in if they didn't turn the music down.
Mouat was arrested and indicted in February with willfully causing bodily injury to the victim because of the victim's race, and attempting to cause bodily injury to the second teen. Under the agreement, Mouat pleaded guilty to the first charge.
He faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Mouat's attorney did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela Karlan condemned Mouat's actions.
“Hate-fueled incidents like this one have no place in a civilized society,” Karlan said in a statement. “The Justice Department is committed to using all the tools in our law enforcement arsenal to prosecute violent acts motivated by hate.”
“The young victim in this case suffered tremendously from this vicious, racially motivated assault. Every individual citizen has the right to not live in fear of violence or attack based on the color of their skin," Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin added.
Mouat's sentencing is scheduled for June 24.