U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays has sentenced Holden Matthews to 25 years in prison for burning down three predominantly Black churches in the Louisiana area. Judge Summerhays also ordered Matthews to pay a fine of $2.6 million to the churches that he burned down.
"Matthews admitted to setting the fires 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," U.S. Attorney Alexander VanHook stated.
Matthews string of arsonist crimes occurred in April 2019. Thankfully, all of the churches were empty at the time they were burned down and no one was injured.
"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," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said.
"The churches survived for nearly 150 years but did not survive this defendant's warped act of hatred."
Matthews plead guilty to charges at the state and federal level in hopes of serving both sentences concurrently. Matthews was charged with three counts of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act and one count of using fire to commit a federal felony. His $2.6 million fine will consist of a $1.1 million payment to Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, $970,213.30 to Greater Union Baptist Church and $590,246 to St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church.
Matthews has already been credited for 18 months served. If required to serve his full sentence in prison, he will be released in 2044 at the age of 47.