Man: Guilty plea to federal charges in black church burnings


FILE – This file booking image provided by the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal shows Holden Matthews, who was arrested Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in connection with suspicious fires at three historic black churches in southern Louisiana. Matthews is scheduled for a change-of-plea hearing Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in federal court, where he faces hate crime charges. (Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal via AP, File)

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) – The suspect in a series of fires set last spring at African American churches in Louisiana has pleaded guilty to four federal charges.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Lafayette says that Holden Matthews pleaded guilty Monday to three counts of intentionally damaging religious property and to using fire to commit a felony.

Matthews is white and the destruction of three historic black churches in St. Landry Parish evoked memories of civil rights-era terrorism. However, the indictment did not state a racial motive. It said the fires were set because of the properties’ religious character.

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