John on December 19, 2006 at 9:44 pm
From WTVM News in Birmingham:
Three former college students will plead guilty to setting fires at nine rural Alabama churches.
That’s according to a filing in the court of a U-S magistrate in Birmingham. The filing did not indicate the details but the attorney for one of the men says the plea will include substantial jail time.Court appearances are scheduled Wednesday for Matthew Cloyd, Russell Debusk and Benjamin Moseley.
At the time of the indictment in March, prosecutors said each man faced a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison on federal charges. They also face state charges.
Prosecutors say five of the fires resulted from a night of drinking and illegal hunting that got out of hand. The other fires were described in court filings as an attempt to throw the investigation off course.
All three had pled not guilty. The change of plea involves a deal reached with the prosecutor. According to this AP story, U.S District Judge David Proctor has 90-120 days to issue sentence but is not bound by the agreement. In other words, he could give the boys more time. Each sentence reportedly also includes a minimum $250K fine.
Not mentioned in this story or most stories about this incident is something I reported on back in March. All three of the boys had expressed their disdain for Christianity. They apparently described themselves as Satanist in the Anton LaVey mode.
DeBusk, whose home address was listed as the Russet Woods subdivision in Hoover, had other interests as well. Friends said he and Ben Moseley were Satanists, which DeBusk told friends was “not about worshipping the devil, but about the pursuit of knowledge,” according to Burgess.
I take them at their word on that, but note this comment by the third member of the group, Matt Cloyd:
In a posting to Moseley last summer as the two planned a road trip, he wrote, “Let us defy the very morals of society instilled upon us by our parents, our relatives and of course Jesus.”
In short, there was a religious motive here, or rather an anti-religious motive. Had mosques been burned instead of churches, we’d be hearing a lot about it. That said, I really don’t see much value in putting these kids in prison for a decade. Their stupid acts of vandalism destroyed a lot of property, but thankfully no one was injured.
Personally, I wish the judge would reduce the time behind bars to 2-3 years and set a high community service debt, perhaps 2500 hours for each. That would mean about 18 months of full time labor in the counties where the offenses took place. Ideally, they could have a hand rebuilding some of the very churches they burned. It would be just and would be better for them and for those they hurt. This is a case where mercy seems appropriate.