Report: Federal Hate Crime Charges Filed In Black Church Fires

June 12, 2019, 3 months ago

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Report: Federal Hate Crime Charges Filed In Black Church Fires

According the Minnesota Star Tribune,  the son of a Louisiana sheriff's deputy is facing federal hate crime charges in connection with three fires that destroyed African American churches earlier this year.

Holden Matthews, 21, was charged in a six-count federal indictment that was unsealed Wednesday.

The indictment charges Matthews with three counts of "intentional damage to religious property," which the Department of Justice said is a hate crime under the U.S. Church Arson Prevention Act. He's also charged with three counts of "using fire to commit a felony."

Matthews is white and the churches served black congregations. The indictment, however, does not mention race. It says the fires were set "because of the religious character" of the properties.

The indictment is dated June 6th and was handed up by a grand jury in Lafayette.

"Attacks against an individual or group because of their religious beliefs will not be tolerated in the Western District of Louisiana," David C. Joseph, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District, said in a Justice Department news release.

Matthews pleaded not guilty to three hate crime counts. He also pleaded not guilty to two counts of simple arson of a religious building and one count of aggravated arson of a religious building, she said.

He was denied bond at a Monday court hearing, as requested by District Attorney Earl Taylor.

The suspect has no history of violence or prior arrests, authorities said, and he may have been influenced by “black metal” music and its “associated history with church burnings.”

(Photo - Louisiana State Fire Marshal)

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