Published Nov 03, 2020A white man who pleaded guilty to the arson of three historically Black churches in Louisiana in 2019 has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.
Holden James Matthews, 22, was sentenced yesterday (November 2) in federal court in Lafayette, LA, having pleaded guilty in February to three counts of using fire to commit a felony and three counts of intentional damage to religious property. Both charges are hate crimes under the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996.
Matthews, the son of a sheriff's deputy, had admitted to federal prosecutors he set fire to the three churches in a 10-day span in an effort to raise his profile as a black metal musician.
As previously reported, Matthews confessed at his plea hearing to burning the churches "because of the religious character of these buildings, in an effort to raise his profile as a 'Black Metal' musician by copying similar crimes committed in Norway in the 1990s."
The Daily Beast had previously reported that Matthews had videotaped and took photographs of the arson and shared it to Facebook, where he had also been active in pagan and black metal groups.
Matthews first set fire to St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, LA, on March 26, 2019. He would then torch the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas on April 2, ahead of burning the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church two days later, also in Opelousas.
Matthews was arrested last April after authorities traced three gas cans found at one of the churches to a local Walmart, confirming they were purchased by Matthews through use of credit card receipts and surveillance video.
"These churches trace their origins to the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and, for generations, were a place for predominantly African American Christians to gather, pray, worship, and celebrate their faith," Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, told the court. "The churches survived for nearly 150 years but did not survive this defendant's warped act of hatred."