Colorado man sentenced to over 3 years in prison for church arson, hate crime

Darion Ray Sexton, 22, was arrested in January 2023 for attempting to set fire to a church in Colorado. He was sentenced to 39 months in prison on January 23, 2024.
Darion Ray Sexton, 22, was arrested in January 2023 for attempting to set fire to a church in Colorado. He was sentenced to 39 months in prison on January 23, 2024. | Larimer County Sheriff's Office

A Colorado resident was sentenced to 39 months in prison for a hate crime in which he set fire to a church by throwing two Molotov cocktails at the building because of its religious nature.

Darion Ray Sexton, 22, was sentenced Tuesday for attacking a church in Loveland in January 2023, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said that Sexton “has now been held accountable for his deliberate attack on the church.”

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“No one should live in fear because of their religious beliefs. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who seek to destroy houses of worship and interfere with the fundamental right to practice religion freely,” Clarke stressed in a statement.

Special Agent in Charge Mark D. Michalek of the FBI Denver Field Office was also quoted, noting that federal authorities worked with the Loveland Police Department to apprehend Sexton.

“Anyone who attacks a house of worship will get the full attention of the FBI,” claimed Michalek. “In addition to seeking justice for these crimes, the FBI remains committed to providing resources for potential victims, such as the event with faith leaders held in this county the day before the crime occurred.”

On Jan. 19 of last year, authorities responded to a fire at a Loveland church, determining soon after that an individual had purposely attempted to set fire to the religious building.

A few days later, investigators with local police, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested Sexton and charged him with a criminal complaint.

Sexton pleaded guilty in federal court to committing a hate crime when he targeted the church, admitting that he was motivated to destroy the building due to its religious nature.

For his crime, Sexton had faced the possibility of receiving a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

"We all have a right to feel safe and secure in our houses of worship — no matter our religion or belief," said U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan for the District of Colorado in a statement last year, according to CBS News.

"An act of violence in one of our sacred places is especially serious, and we will work with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute all such offenses." 

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