BOSTON - The final defendant was sentenced today in federal court for his role in the arson of the Macedonia Church of God in Christ, a predominantly African-American church, just hours after the election of President Barack Obama.
Thomas Gleason, 24, was sentenced by United States District Judge Michael A. Ponsor to 54 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Gleason was also ordered to pay over $1.7 million in restitution, including $123,570 to the Macedonia Church of God in Christ.
In June 2010, Gleason pleaded guilty to conspiracy against civil rights, damage or destruction of religious property, and use of fire to commit a felony. Gleason’s co-conspirators, Benjamin Haskell and Michael Jacques, were previously sentenced to nine years in prison and 14 years in prison, respectively.
According to evidence presented in court, in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 2008, within hours of President Obama being elected, Gleason and his co-conspirators burned down the Macedonia Church of God in Christ’s newly-constructed building where religious services were to be held for its predominantly African-American congregation. The building was approximately 75 percent completed at the time of the fire, which destroyed nearly the entire structure, leaving only the metal superstructure and a small portion of the front corner intact.
“The parishioners of the Macedonia Church of God in Christ deserve to have some sense of closure to this matter,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz for the District of Massachusetts.“I have the utmost respect for Bishop Robinson and his parishioners who have endured so much pain from these crimes, but have managed to maintain unwavering faith and dignity. I truly hope that justice has provided them with a sense of peace as they resume their prayers in their beautiful new church.”
“Attempting to destroy a place of worship not only hurts those who congregate there, but affects the entire community,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute acts such as this one that interfere with a person’s right to worship.”
U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; Guy Thomas, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Boston Field Division; Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Colonel Marian J. McGovern, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni; and Springfield Police Commissioner William J. Fitchet made the announcement today.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul H. Smyth and Kevin O’Regan of Ortiz’s Springfield Office and Nicole Lee Ndumele, Trial Attorney in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.