ADDITIONAL CHARGES FILED AGAINST TWO MEN FOR
SPRINGFIELD CHURCH ARSON
Presidential Election Sparked Hate Crime
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Additional criminal charges were filed today against two Springfield men in relation to the burning of a Springfield church on November 5, 2008.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; Glenn N. Anderson, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - Boston Field Division; Warren T. Bamford, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation - Boston Field Office; Massachusetts State Police Colonel Marian J. McGovern; Hampden County District Attorney William Bennett; and Springfield Police Commissioner William J. Fitchet, announced additional charges related to the burning of the Macedonia Church of God in Christ, a predominantly African-American church, on the morning after Barack Obama was elected President of the United States.
“This senseless church burning victimized and traumatized a congregation and the larger Springfield community,” said U.S. Attorney Ortiz. “Any desecration of a place of worship is a despicable crime, reaching to a deeply felt American tenet, freedom of religion. Incidents of this type illustrate the challenges we still face to protect our civil rights.”
"The freedom to practice the religion that we choose in a safe environment without being subjected to discrimination or hateful acts is among our nation's most cherished rights," said Tom Perez, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "Anyone who violates that right will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Today, in a superseding indictment, a federal grand jury charged MICHAEL JACQUES, 25, and THOMAS GLEASON, 22, with two additional crimes – damaging religious property because of race, color or ethnic characteristics, and using fire to commit a felony. The two were previously charged with conspiring to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate the parishioners of the Macedonia Church of God in Christ in the free exercise or enjoyment of the right to hold and use real property, a right which is secured in the Constitution and laws of the U.S.
The superseding indictment charges that in the early morning hours of November 5, 2008, within hours of the election of Barack Obama, JACQUES and GLEASON succeeded in burning the Macedonia Church of God in Christ’s newly-constructed building where religious services were held for its predominantly African-American congregation. The building was 75% completed at the time of the fire, which destroyed the entire structure leaving only the metal superstructure and a small portion of the front corner intact. Investigators determined the fire to be incendiary in nature and caused by an unknown quantity of gasoline applied to the exterior and interior of the building.
JACQUES and GLEASON face up to 10 years in prison on Count One, 40 years in prison on Count Two, and a mandatory 10-year sentence on Count Three, plus up to five years of supervised release.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Massachusetts State Police; Hampden County District Attorney’s Office and the Springfield Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Paul H. Smyth and Kevin O’Regan of Ortiz’s Springfield Office and Nicole Lee Ndumele, a Trial Attorney in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
The details contained in the Indictment are allegations. The defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.