Ohio man convicted of attempting to burn down church planning to host drag events
TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - An Ohio man who was accused of attempting to burn down a church that was planning to host drag events pleaded guilty last week, according to a press release from the FBI.
Court documents say on March 25, 2023, Aimenn Penny, 20, of Alliance, Ohio, made Molotov cocktails and drove to the Community Church of Chesterland in Chesterland, Ohio. According to the FBI, Penny was angered by the church’s plan to host two drag events and threw the Molotov cocktails at the church, hoping to burn it to the ground.
Penny was then arrested and charged with violating the Church Arson Prevention Act. He was facing one count of using fire to commit a federal felony, one count of malicious use of explosive materials and one count of possessing a destructive device.
“Attempting to burn down the Community Church of Chesterland for their support of the LGBTQI+ community is reprehensible,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “There is no room in this country for such bias motivated violence and terror, and the Justice Department will continue to protect all Americans in their free exercise of religious beliefs by vigorously prosecuting those who target houses of worship. Our churches should be safe havens for all people, not sites subjected to violence motivated by hate and vitriol.”
According to the FBI, on Oct. 23, 2023, Penny pleaded guilty to the charges he was facing and admitted to using force, through fire and explosives, to obstruct CCC congregants in their enjoyment and expression of their religious beliefs.
“Mr. Penny admitted to attempting to burn down a church because he did not like the way congregants chose to express their beliefs,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “Such acts of extremist violence are antithetical to core American values of freedom of expression and worship and we will not tolerate those who would use force to deny our citizens the free exercise of their rights.”
The FBI says Penny faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the violation of the Church Arson Prevention Act and a 10-year mandatory prison sentence that will run consecutively with any other prison term imposed on him for using fire to commit a federal felony.
A judge has set Penny’s sentencing for Jan. 29, 2024.
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