Member Of Aryan Brotherhood Pleads Guilty To Hate Crime And Attempted Murder Of Disabled African-American

| September 3, 2011

Steven Scott Cantrell, of Crane, Texas, pleaded guilty Friday to hate crime charges stemming from a series of racially-motivated arsons in December 2010, including the arson of a historic African-American church as part of an effort to murder a disabled African-American man, the US Justice Department announced.

Cantrell, 25, pleaded guilty to damaging religious property and interfering with housing rights in violation of federal hate crime laws before U.S. District Judge Robert A. Junell in federal court in Midland, Texas.

During the plea hearing, Cantrell admitted that on Dec. 28, 2010, he set fire to Faith in Christ Church, a predominantly African-American church, as part of an effort to murder a disabled African-American man who he saw passing by the church in his wheelchair. Before starting the fire, Cantrell admitted that he intentionally attempted to kill the disabled African-American man whom he believed lived at a shelter within the church, and was present when he set the fire. The man was not hurt. Cantrell ransacked the church, wrote a series of threatening and racist messages in large letters across the wall of the church next to the pastor’s office, and “tagged” the church with references to the Aryan Brotherhood.

The arson of Faith in Christ Church was part of a series of racially-motivated arsons that Cantrell perpetrated that day in his attempt to gain status with the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. In addition to the church, Cantrell admitted that he set fire to the house of another man in the community because he believed that man to be Jewish and because he sought to injure, intimidate or interfere with that man’s right to rent or occupy that house. Cantrell also admitted to setting fire to Craig’s Gym in violation of federal arson laws. At the plea hearing, Cantrell acknowledged that he set fire to Craig’s Gym because he believed the owners served Mexican-Americans and African-American patrons and because the gym was owned by a Caucasian man married to a woman of Mexican descent. Cantrell added that he felt “disrespected” by a Caucasian man marrying a woman of Mexican descent because he believed “the white race needed to be kept pure.”

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