A member of an African American church in Mississippi admitted setting the church on fire but never took responsibility for the words “Vote Trump” that were spray painted on the outside of the building the night of the blaze, a prosecutor said Thursday.
The fire and the vandalism happened a week before the 2016 presidential election, raising fears among some local residents that the act could be a hate crime in a region where churches have been burned in the past to intimidate black voters.
Andrew McClinton gave investigators varying accounts when he admitted setting the fire at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Washington County District Attorney Dewayne Richardson told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Richardson said McClinton was involved in “illicit” activities at the church and set the fire to prevent fellow congregants from meeting the next day to discuss the activities.
“He was trying to hide that information from being disclosed,” Richardson said, without elaborating on what the activities were.
McClinton, 47, pleaded guilty to arson on March 28 and was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison.
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Source: Magnolia State Live