The Justice Department announced today that Colton Donner, 27, pleaded guilty in federal court to threatening an African American man with a knife because of the man’s race, and in order to intimidate and interfere with the man’s right to fair housing.
According to documents filed in connection with the plea, on Sept. 11, 2019, Donner was driving through a residential area of Paola, Kansas, when he saw the victim, an African American man, walking on the sidewalk. Donner stopped, got out of the car, and approached the victim while brandishing a knife. Donner threatened the victim, yelled racial slurs, and told the victim that Paola is a “white town.”
“Using racially motivated threats of violence to drive someone out of their home or community is a deplorable crime, and the Justice Department stands ready to use our nation’s hate crimes laws to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Racially motivated hate crimes have no place in our society today. All people deserve to feel safe and secure living in their communities, regardless of race, color or national origin.”
“Any attempt to deny someone an opportunity to live where he or she chooses based on race, color or national origin is wrong and a violation of that person’s civil rights,” said U.S. Attorney Duston Slinkard for the District of Kansas. “It is the responsibility of the Justice Department to prosecute such offenses to ensure the equal protection under the law to which we all are entitled, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”
“Every individual has the right to occupy a home free from racial discrimination, yet the defendant targeted the victim for no other reason than the victim’s race,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles Dayoub of the FBI Kansas City Field Office. “The defendant’s actions directly undermined the victim’s right to reside in a community in Paola, Kansas, and to enjoy the protections afforded under the federal civil rights act. The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, have no tolerance for this type of fear and intimidation and are committed to protecting residents regardless of their race, color, religion, gender, national origin or familial status.”
Donner faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the civil rights offense.
The case was investigated by the Paola, Kansas Police Department, and the Kansas City Field Office of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tristan Hunt of the District of Kansas and Trial Attorney Anita Channapati of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.