Man sentenced in anti-Obama arson of black church

| January 19, 2012

(Reuters) – A white man who admitted to helping burn down a mostly black church to protest against Barack Obama's election as the nation's first black president was sentenced on Wednesday to four-and-a-half years in prison.

The November 2008 arson fire came hours after presidential election results were announced, and destroyed the nearly finished Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts, about 90 miles west of Boston.

Authorities said three white Springfield friends – Thomas Gleason, Michael Jacques and Benjamin Haskell – were motivated by racial resentment when they doused the building with gasoline and torched it.

No worshipers were inside at the time, but some firefighters were injured battling the blaze.

Judge Michael Ponsor in U.S. District Court sentenced Gleason, 24, to 54 months in federal prison for his role in the hate crime, followed by three years of parole.

Gleason pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiracy to violate civil rights, religious property damage because of race, and damage to religious property by use of fire, according to the lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Smyth.

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Category: Church Security

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