Man Gets 14 Years for Church Arson

A man who set a black church in Massachusetts on fire in response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2008 election victory has been sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison.

Michael Jacques, 27, was convicted of conspiracy against civil rights, damage or destruction of religious property and use of a fire to commit a felony on April 14. He was sentenced to 13 years and 10 months in federal prison on Thursday. He faced between 10 and 60 years in prison and will serve four years of supervised probation after his release.

He was also ordered by Judge Michael Ponsor to pay more than $1 million in restitution, including $123,570 to the church.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Smyth, the lead prosecutor in the case said that the sentence was fair and reasonable, according to a Reuters report.

“It sends a message that hatred and intolerance will not be tolerated,” Smyth said.

The fire was set to the Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Mass, which is a predominantly black church. According to prosecutors, Jacques and two other men were motivated by racial resentment when they set the fire to the building.

Benjamin Haskell and Thomas Gleason were the co-conspirators of Jacques and pled guilty to similar charges. Haskell was sentenced to nine years in federal prison last year, while Gleason, who testified for the prosecution, will be sentenced in January, according to reports.

Jacques was the only defendant during the three-week trial. Prosecutors say that all three men confessed to the crime, blaming each other.

Jacques tried to have his confession thrown out before the trial on the notion that it was falsely obtained during a six-hour interview. According to reports, Jacques was suffering from withdrawal from nicotine and Percocets. His attempt was unsuccessful.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Jacques’ racism reached the “boiling point” when Obama was elected. They said that he often used expressed anger that minorities were taking over the country.

Jacques’ attorney, Lori Levinson calls the sentence “extraordinarily heavy” and that Jacques will appeal.

According to prosecutors, the three men were at Gleason’s house smoking marijuana and drinking beer during election night in 2008. They then agreed to go burn down the church, which was located close to Gleason’s residence.

No one was in the church that night, but some firefighters suffered minor injuries putting the fire out. The Macedonia Church of God in Christ, which was under construction at the time, re-opened in September.