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US Louisiana man pleads guilty to setting fire to three black churches

00:01  11 february  2020
00:01  11 february  2020 Source:   cnn.com

Plea change expected in Louisiana black church burnings

  Plea change expected in Louisiana black church burnings LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — The suspect in a series of fires set at African American churches in Louisiana last spring is scheduled for a change-of-plea hearing Monday in federal court, where he faces hate crime charges. Holden Matthews had earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges arising from arson fires that destroyed three churches in an around the city of Opelousas. But, court records revealed that there had been plea negotiations going on in the case.

He pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act, as well as one count of using fire to commit a federal felony. He also admitted to watching the churches burn and taking photos and videos of the fires and posting them on Facebook in an effort to promote himself in the

A man accused of setting fire to three predominantly black churches in a southern Louisiana parish was charged with hate crimes on Monday, adding to He pleaded not guilty on Monday and was not granted bond. The three fires destroyed churches that had existed for more than a century and had

The son of a Louisiana deputy pleaded guilty on Monday to setting fire to three black churches, according to federal prosecutors.

a person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera© From Facebook

Holden Matthews, 22, admitted in court to setting fire to the Baptist churches in St. Landry Parish, the heart of south central Louisiana's Cajun and Creole country, during a span of 10 days in March and April, 2019, the US Department of Justice said.

Matthews pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act -- one count for each church-- and guilty to one count of using fire to commit a federal felony, the DOJ said.

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The man suspected of setting fire to three black churches in Louisiana has been charged with three counts of hate crimes under a state statute, St. Landry Parish District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Donna Slate said. Holden Matthews, 21, pleaded not guilty to three hate crime counts.

ATLANTA — Three historically black churches have burned in less than two weeks in one south Louisiana parish, where officials said they Last month, a black member of a predominantly black congregation, Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Miss., pleaded guilty to burning his

The fires destroyed St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre on March 26, Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas on April 2 and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas on April 4.

Matthews admitted to setting the blazes "because of the religious character of these buildings, in an effort to raise his profile as a 'Black Metal' musician by copying similar crimes committed in Norway in the 1990s," the DOJ said.

He admitted to posting photographs and videos on Facebook after setting the final fire at Mount Pleasant, the DOJ said. The photographs and videos showed St. Mary Baptist and Greater Union Baptist burning, according to the DOJ.

Matthews admitted to taking the photographs and videos in real time on his cell phone as he watched the sanctuaries burn, the DOJ said.

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Firefighters and fire investigators respond to a fire Thursday at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Butch has said all three fires were suspicious. “If you’re going to turn to a house of God, turn to it for A man in Mississippi pleaded guilty to arson last month for setting fire to a black church in 2016.

Donations for the burned churches increased in the wake of the fire at Paris' Notre Dame after an online — The white man suspected in the burnings of three African American churches in Louisiana is Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a sheriff's deputy, entered his not guilty plea via video

"His disgraceful conduct violated the civil rights of the church's parishioners and harmed their communities," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the civil rights division, said in a news release.

The blazes terrorized congregants at the historically black houses of worship. Pastors at nearby churches undertook security measures, including sleeping in their churches or the parking lots to ward off would-be arsons.

Church burnings were a common occurrence during the Jim Crow era. And fires at black churches -- especially those in the South -- immediately bring to mind such racist attacks.

Authorities said at the time Matthews may have been influenced by "black metal" music and its "associated history with church burnings."

Matthews had expressed disgust with Baptist beliefs on Facebook. Posting under the name Noctis Matthews, he wrote that he cannot "stand all these baptists around here, bunch of brainwashed people trying to find happiness in a religion that was forced on their ancestors just as it was on mine."

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Prosecutors in Louisiana have charged the man accused of setting fire to three black churches with hate crimes. Holden Matthews, who was arrested last week, pleaded not guilty to three hate crime charges on Monday, along with several counts of arson involving a religious building, according to the

A Biloxi man pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to setting a fire that burned 100 acres on Horn Island last April. Keith Anthony O'Brien Jr. entered the plea to a charge of willfully starting an illegal fire in a federal wilderness area. O'Brien and Brian Anthony Leonardi were indicted in March.

He also said he wished that "more blacks [sic] people would look into ancient beliefs of pre Christian Africa."

The charred remains of a Scepter brand gas can, which federal agents found at Mount Pleasant Baptist, led police to a Walmart in Opelousas, and ultimately to Matthews, according to a court affidavit.

Walmart told investigators two cans were bought on March 25 -- less than 3 hours before the first blaze -- along with a 10-pack of automotive cloths and a lighter, the affidavit said.

The receipt showed the purchase was made with a debit card in Matthews' name, according to the affidavit.

Investigators found surveillance photos of Matthews and his dad's Ford pickup truck, which investigators believed he was driving minutes before Greater Union Baptist caught fire on April 2, the affidavit said.

Cell phone data also put Matthews in the area of the fires.

Matthews' father is a local sheriff's deputy who broke down when he found out his son was suspected of setting the fires, according to St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz.

Matthews faces up to 70 years in prison when he is sentenced on May 22.

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