1st of 3 arson trials slated in 2008 church burning

| May 8, 2010

SPRINGFIELD – Thomas A. Gleason Jr. will be the first defendant tried of the three men accused of burning of a predominantly black church on the night Barack Obama won the presidency, federal court records show.

Gleason, 22, is scheduled to come to trail June 21. All three defendants will have separate trials. They are charged with a civil rights violation using arson.

If Gleason doesn't come to trial for any reason, Benjamin F. Haskell, 23, will go first. The third defendant is Michael F. Jacques, 25. All three are of Springfield.

Lawyers representing Gleason, Haskell and Jacques met Friday with Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Regan and U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor for a scheduling conference in Ponsor's chambers at U.S. District Court in Springfield.

According to court documents, all three men have given separate videotaped confessions implicating themselves and others in the November 2008 torching of Macedonia Church of God in Christ under construction on Tinkham Road in the Sixteen Acres neighborhood.

A witness told investigators that Jacques said he was irked by Obama's win and felt "blacks and Puerto Ricans" were gaining more rights than whites." The defendants told investigators they stole through the woods behind the church, broke in through a window and doused the partially constructed building with gasoline, officials said.

Hearings as to the admission of evidence in the case will be May 18 and 19.

They face a mandatory 10 years in prison if convicted.

Meanwhile, the congregation of Macedonia Church of God in Christ plans to have the structure rebuilt within the next 10 months to a year, said Bishop Bryant Robinson Jr., the pastor.




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Category: Church Security

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