Federal hate crime charges were filed against Holden Matthews, the son of a sheriff’s deputy, who was arrested in connection with the fires of three historically black churches in Louisiana.
What We Know:
- The 21-year-old faces three counts of intentional damage to religious property, which counts as a hate crime under the Church Arson Prevention Act, according to NBC News. Additionally, he was charged with three counts of using fire to commit a felony, according to a news release from the Justice Department. The churches were empty at the time of the fires but were severely damaged.
- Matthews already faced state charges for the fires and pleaded not guilty in that case. If he is convicted in the federal case he faces up to 20 years per count of intentional damage to religious property, as well as a $250,000 fine.
- The three fires were started by gasoline and occurred from late March to early April. These incidents negatively impacted churchgoers in the St. Landry Parish area. The attacks invoked images of the civil rights movement where black churches were often burned down.
- In April, the churches received more than $1.9 million in donations following the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.
Matthews was denied bail in his state case and his trial is scheduled to begin in September.