Federal hate crime charges filed in St. Landry church fire case

Don Ames
June 12, 2019 - 4:22 pm

Federal hate crime charges have now been filed against the 21-year-old man accused of setting fire to three historically black churches in St. Landry Parish. 

U-S Attorney David Joseph says attacks against a group because of their religious briefs will not be tolerated. Legal analyst Tim Meche expects the feds will be the first to prosecute Holden Matthews.

“The federal authorities have so many resources and experts when it comes to proving arson cases and they’ll be much better equipped to try this case in federal court,” said Meche.

Matthews is facing multiple federal charges, three counts using fire to commit a felony and three counts of intentional damage to religious property.

Matthews is currently being held in jail without bond as he faces several state charges that include simple arson, aggravated arson and three counts of hate crimes. Meche says if Matthews is found guilty, he’ll receive a substantial prison sentence whether it’s in state or federal court.

“It doesn’t really change the sentencing structure all that much, I think he’ll be looking at about the same sentence probably in excess of 20 years, if he’s convicted in either jurisdiction,” said Meche.

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