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Posted on Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

Police: Man and woman face ethnic intimidation charge for harassing black neighbors

By John Counts


Joseph Starr

Courtesy of WCSO


Leah Keaton

Courtesy of WCSO

A 19-year-old woman and 22-year-old man, both of Ypsilanti Township, are facing charges after police say they used racial slurs toward their black neighbors last week.

Leah Ashley Keaton and Joseph Jonathan Starr, who are both white, were charged Tuesday with one count apiece of ethnic intimidation. Keaton also is charged with assault for allegedly shoving her neighbor, a 23-year-old black woman, July 3 in the 1100 block of Hull Avenue of Ypsilanti Township, said Sgt. Geoff Fox of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office.

Starr faces an additional count of disturbing the peace.

Deputies were called to neighboring homes on Hull Street around 1 a.m. July 3 for a dispute, Fox said.

The 23-year-old told police that she overheard Keaton and Starr through an open window using a racial epithet when referring to her, according to police. The woman said after hearing it about eight to 10 times, she went next door to ask them to stop.

"It is alleged that Keaton pushed the victim to the ground and then closed the door," Fox said.

When police arrived and knocked on the suspects' door, no one answered. Officers left, but were then called back to the same houses two hours later after receiving reports Keaton and Starr were outside singing songs about killing black people and were throwing rocks at the 23-year-old's house, Fox said.

The two once again refused to answer the door when police came to question them. Officers continued to investigate and learned Keaton and Starr had been using the same racial slur with the 23-year-old woman's 63-year-old father and also neighborhood children of Asian descent, Fox said.

Police caught up with the suspects on July 7 and arrested them without incident. Both were given $10,000 cash bonds and no contact orders protecting the alleged victims and neighbor children. They continue to be held in the Washtenaw County Jail, according to jail records.

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John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 8:36 a.m.

Are they able to use her Facebook as evidence? It isn't set to private...

Sandy Castle

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 12:24 p.m.

How disturbing.

Jack Gladney

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

That would depend on the judge hearing the case. Social media is one of those areas the law has not quite yet figured out. Case in point: The Zimmerman trial in Florida. The judge there said no to admitting Trayvon Martin's Twitter account (his handle was a racial slur itself) into evidence. Even though somone had deleted his account post-mortem, the contents of it were reconstructed by forensics (and now leaked the media) the judge gave t a thumbs-down.

Jay Thomas

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 1:46 a.m.

It is not acceptable to harass your neighbors whatever the reason. That it is racial harassment makes it even worse.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 12:01 a.m.

Guilty as charged? Be careful not to rush to judgment. I am Trayvon Martin, remember that?


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 4:11 p.m.



Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 11:57 p.m.

It is Hull Avenue, not Hull Street.

John Counts

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 3:11 a.m.

Thanks. This has been fixed.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 11:15 p.m.

Ypsilanti Township is known for and proud of being a ethnically diverse community. If a person or individuals in general, don't desire, want or can't handle living peacefully in community where diversity exist, Ypsilanti Township is not the place for you.

Sandy Castle

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 11:24 p.m.

Jeannette, we saw it most at the middle and high school. I hope that's not your experience, though. Ypsi is filled with more really nice people ;o)

Jeannette Gutierrez

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 9:46 p.m.

Sandy, I don't doubt that you have a point, as these two prove. Too bad some of the bad attitudes still survive. But on the whole, I agree with YpsiGirl. I've been in Gault Village for 4 years now, and the vast majority of us get along really well, and it is a truly mixed-race neighborhood. As someone who has come in from the outside, I do see a lot of racial harmony there that I hadn't seen in A2 or Detroit.

Sandy Castle

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

Having lived in this area for over 20 years I can tell you that while you and I would like this to be the case, there are many people like this couple living in this area. I always thought it would get better, but it has not. Kids are being raised here by people who pass on their prejudices and violence. Not everyone, by any means, but enough that it's noticeable.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 1:45 a.m.

Yes, really. Any other questions?


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 11:52 p.m.


Usual Suspect

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 11:11 p.m.

The speech police have arrived, and proven wrong those always called us paranoid conspiracy theorists for saying they would come. Anybody remember the U of Penn Water buffalo incident?


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 3:37 p.m.

The arrest was for shoving the person to the ground.

Homeland Conspiracy

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

It's speech. It can be as aggressive as you like theoretically. Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a Republic not too far from here, neither speech nor status was punishable by law. But now that we live in a fascist surveillance state


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 1:08 p.m.

Not long ago in this Republic it would not have been punishable to beat to death Africans, sell them to the highest bidder, have relations with them at any age. Even closer in time it would have been acceptable to make them drink out of a separate drinking fountain, refuse to serve them food, deny them loans and limit "them" to marrying people of the same skin color. But now we live in a slightly more civilized society. You would not know a Fascist state if it jumped up and bit you.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 11:21 a.m.

No, we don't live in a fascist surveillance state. Some live in a delusional state.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 1:51 a.m.

They weren't arrested for speech, they were arrested for assault, damaging property, harassment, and threatening violence.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 10:29 p.m.

I condemn all racist people but in this case I'm wondering if there were any witnesses or evidence that these two actually did what their neighbor said they did. I'm also concerned that "pushing someone to the ground" who is on your property and confronting you can send you to jail for at least 3 days. Maybe I just have a questioning nature but it seems like other witnesses to these acts would have to be present for them to go there days later and make an arrest.

John Counts

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 1:05 p.m.

It's my understanding that just a victim's testimony is pretty powerful in most cases. It sounds like there were other people around that night, too. I'm sure police interviewed them before submitting the charges to the prosecutor, who will generally only authorize charges if the case is strong enough.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

This is about more than just speech ... 750.147b Ethnic intimidation. Sec. 147b. (1) A person is guilty of ethnic intimidation if that person maliciously, and with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person's race, color, religion, gender, or national origin, does any of the following: (a) Causes physical contact with another person. (b) Damages, destroys, or defaces any real or personal property of another person. (c) Threatens, by word or act, to do an act described in subdivision (a) or (b), if there is reasonable cause to believe that an act described in subdivision (a) or (b) will occur.

Homeland Conspiracy

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 9:10 p.m.

So much for "free" speech


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

I think shoving to the ground is not protected by the 1st Amendment.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

Free speech is not free from reaction


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : noon

It would be a good idea for people to look up "freedom of speech". It has to do with speaking out about the government, not saying anything you want about anyone, especially hateful things.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 1:50 a.m.

They weren't arrested for using racial slurs in their home.

Homeland Conspiracy

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 9:54 p.m.

What's next "Free Speech Zones" ...oh my bad we already have those


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 9:47 p.m.

And speech in your own home "overheard" through an open window at 1:00am?

Michigan Reader

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

Free speech was never absolute.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

You're free to speak, but not to threaten.

ronald sharp

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 8:57 p.m.

It's likely they won't be using racial slurs in their present habitation.

Proleptically Living

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 8:28 p.m.

It's 2013 and they are serenading their neighbors of color and casting stones. Oh, dear. I thought their generation was beyond that. Hopefully this is a very isolated case. To the two charged in this case, Washtenaw County residents are better than that.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 8:19 p.m.

Wow, a couple of gems those two are !


Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 8:05 p.m.

Yep, charming huh?


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 8:17 p.m.

The map of this lake has been in the crime news a lot lately. They should keep a eye on it.

Usual Suspect

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 8:07 p.m.

Has there ever been a week when there wasn't a crime story that involves this neighborhood?


Fri, Jul 12, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.

Actually, yes, there have been many weeks where this neighborhood wasn't mentioned in a story. I follow closely because I live there. The occasional break-in or drama over a pet rooster, yes - but not much violent crime.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 12:29 a.m.

yes many!


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 11:18 p.m.

I don't believe in painting all residents with the same brush. That's prejudging a LOT of people.

Cindy Heflin

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:58 p.m.

Just a reminder that we don't allow name-calling or comments about appearances. We're placing this thread on pre-moderation. You can review our commenting guidelines here:

lucinda walsh

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

I don't in any way support the use of racial slurs. That includes the media's use of the C word and the H word when white people are referenced. But, out of free speech curiosity, is it legal to use racial slurs in one's own home? Anyone familiar with this kind of law, please be so kind as to educate me about this matter. Thank you.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 3:04 a.m.

How about rap music, and the mob beat downs of indivduals. What should we call that? By the way, why do A2 residents have a desdain for Ypsi. Could it be their is some form od boas as well!!! hmm!


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 2:52 a.m.

They aren't "forbidden," they just don't necessarily receive the same level of protection as other speech does.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 9:23 p.m.

Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech lest they entail fightin' words.

Michigan Reader

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 9:22 p.m.

They are mentioned in case law (appellate courts), they define and interpret the law, and they are primary authority like the statute or constitutional amendment.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 9:08 p.m.

Fighting words aren't mentioned in the First Amendment.

Michigan Reader

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 8:37 p.m.

I believe ethnic intimidation involves racial remarks in conjunction with an otherwise illegal act. Like assault, robbery, etc. I think the use of epithets by themselves isn't a crime. I may be wrong. Fighting words are forbidden under the first amendment, I don't know if that covers ALL racial slurs.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 8:01 p.m.

Of course it's legal to use racial slurs in your home. It's legal to say a racial slur to someone's face. It's illegal, however, to shove them to the ground, throw things at their house, and threaten to kill them.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:51 p.m.

Why so much anger and hatred from people so young?

Jaime Magiera

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 8:30 p.m.

That's a really good question. People are not born with racism or hatred. It's a learned thing.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

I'm trying to figure out what racial slur you'd use against black adults and Asian children. If true, they must have mastered cover-all-your-bases hatred.

John Counts

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 1 p.m.

The slur they are accused of saying is generally used against African Americans, but according to police, they were also using it with neighborhood children of Asian descent.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 2:50 a.m.

To me, this is the most interesting aspect of the story.

Dirty Mouth

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

That's pretty gross. I love Ypsilanti because of its diversity and certainly not for these types of incidents. Really disgusting.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

This incident took place in Ypsilanti Township, not in the city of Ypsilanti. They are not the same.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:38 p.m.



Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:52 p.m.

Bertha Venation

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:34 p.m.

geez. real nice high-class neighbors (not).


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 9:19 p.m.

A somewhat ironic comment, given your username.

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:26 p.m.

Can anyone decipher the tattoo on Mr. Starr's neck?


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

Future property of state pen?


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

And strangely it says the same thing in every language.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 12:39 a.m.

"I'm pretty sure it says "do not hire me."" Of course - now I see it. Plain as day.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 8:07 p.m.

I'm pretty sure it says "do not hire me."


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:54 p.m.

Well it's a Star for if he forgets his name !


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

Just me or everyone? I can't bring myself to call a 19 year old a woman, despite the technical reality. And males? They're 14 until they're 29.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:41 p.m.

If it were an 18 year-old man who, for instance, beat someone with a metallic crutch, then would call the person a teenager. It's a way for the media to subtly influence the narrative of an "alleged" crime.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:40 p.m.

Immaturity is no excuse. I know many children more civilized, and with more self-restraint, than those two.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:06 p.m.

Just a few blocks from the house that exploded just before it was going to be raided.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

I have to agree with others that this "mere observation" implies a bias, a prejudice against Ypsi folks.


Thu, Jul 11, 2013 : 11:24 a.m.

Yeah. And 3927 miles to Paris, France. Merely an observation. But --- you KNOW what I mean, right?! (FRENCH people live in Paris!!)

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 8:02 p.m.

merely an observation.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:40 p.m.

The location is relevant how?


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 7:24 p.m.

Roughly a mile.


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 6:53 p.m.

Ugh. I believe that is all I can say about the "people" charged without crossing the get-deleted line myself.


Sat, Jul 13, 2013 : 6:14 p.m.

a2xarob, totally agree and hopefully this won't get deleted.......


Wed, Jul 10, 2013 : 8:19 p.m.

Since my first reply was removed, and I guess I was expecting it to be, I'll just say I agree a2xarob.