*The Louisiana man who was arrested two years ago for the fires that burned three historically black churches in the state has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Holden James Matthews, 22, was sentenced Monday to three counts of using fire to commit a felony and three counts of intentional damage to religious property, which is a hate crime under the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, ABC News reports.
Matthews, 22, is the son of a St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy and reportedly has ties to white supremacy, according to The Daily Beast. He pleaded guilty to the fires in February and was facing up to 70 years behind bars.
A man accused of burning down 3 historically Black churches in Louisiana is charged with federal hate crimes.
Holden James Matthews intentionally destroyed the churches because of their “religious character” according to the indictment. He faces up to 110 years in prison. pic.twitter.com/JTr9kPFzN7
— AJ+ (@ajplus) June 12, 2019
Here’s more from Complex:
On March 26, 2019, Matthews set fire to St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, Louisiana. Less a week later, he did the same to the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, Louisiana before torching the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church two days later. Investigators were able to nab Matthews with the crimes after discovering that three gas cans used to burn one of the churches was purchased at a local Walmart with a credit card linked back to him.
Matthews told federal prosecutors that he set fire to the churches because of the “religious character of these buildings.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards called the aron attacks a reminder of “a very dark past of intimidation and fear.”
“I don’t know what this young man’s motive was, I don’t know what was in his heart, but I can say it cannot be justified or rationalized,” Edwards previously told reporters. “These were evil acts. But let me be clear about this, hate is not a Louisiana value.”
In addition to his prison sentence, Matthews has to pay nearly $2.7 million in restitution to the three churches.