No charges against man who hung KKK flag at his Grosse Pointe Park home

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News
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No charges will be filed against a White Grosse Pointe Park man accused of hanging a KKK flag at his home that directly faced the home of a Black neighbor, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Tuesday.

The man, whose name has not been released, hung the flag in a window at his home on Wayburn Street. The flag faced the dining window of JeDonna Dinges, who had installed a security camera facing the man's house following an incident  Jan. 20 when Dinges discovered a full gas can inside her garbage container and was concerned for the safety of herself and her family. 

Victoria Wittenberg, 18, on left with sign, of Grosse Pointe Park and her mother Kelly Wittenberg walk with others on Wayburn St. during a rally to protest hate and racism on February 21, 2021, in Grosse Pointe Park.

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The man's flag was hung across the window from Dinges' security cameras. The incident sparked widespread outrage, culminating in a "Hate Has No Home Here" rally attended by several hundred people Feb. 21 in Grosse Pointe Park. 

Michigan's Ethnic Intimidation Statue requires that "there must be physical contact, damage, destruction, defacement of property, or threats to do so."

"After a thorough review of the facts and evidence in this case it has been determined that there is insufficient evidence to charge Ethnic Intimidation or any other charge," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

“There is absolutely no question that what happened to Ms. Dinges was despicable, traumatizing, and completely unacceptable," Worthy said. "But, very unfortunately in my view, not a crime. The KKK flag, while intending to be visible to Ms. Dinges, was hanging inside of her neighbor’s house. We could not even begin to charge Ethnic Intimidation under current Michigan law.

"I strongly encourage the Michigan Legislature to look, revise, and create laws to protect citizens from this kind of horrible conduct.” 

Dinges said she talked to the prosecutor about the case and the decision.

"Although I appreciate the prosecutor's office and how effectively they went through every aspect of this case, I'm disappointed in the outcome," she said. 

Dinges said she supports Worthy's call for legislation to make incidents such as this illegal.

"I think she hit the nail on the head," Dinges said. "This was an act of intimidation, an act of aggression, an act designed toelicit fear in myself and my Black daughter. ... I appreciate that Prosecutor Worthy says the law needs to be improved. I hope the lawmakers are listening."

Dinges added: "I'm a decent person. This person is a racist. Someone putting a Klan flag is an act of hatred. It is a threat. The prosecutor saying it doesn't meet the level of a hate crime does not mean it's not a threat. I feel threatened. The average person would not own a Klan flag, which is a true symbol of hatred."

Cynthia M. Douglas, the president of the Grosse Pointe Park & Harper Woods NAACP, said Tuesday said she is "not surprised" that criminal charges were not issued. Because of the way the law is written, the man who flew the flag can't be prosecuted because it was inside his house.

"Clearly he knew what he was doing and clearly ... it was meant as an intimidation and especially for Ms. Dinges and her family being of African American descent and just this history of the Ku Klux Klan flag ... clearly that was his intent," she said. 

Douglas said the NAACP will continue to engage the community to fight racism,  insisting that Grosse Pointe police departments hire more racial minorities and  urging state lawmakers to come up with a more "stringent" ethnic intimidation law.

 Dinges, the owner of a clothing boutique in Oakland County, said she deeply appreciated the support from the hundreds who came out for the Feb. 21 rally.

"It really touched my heart ... the support they showed for me and my family," she said.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

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