FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          CR
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 1997                        (202) 616-2765
                                               TDD (202) 514-1888

     WASHINGTON, D.C. --  Two former members of the Christian
Knights of the Ku Klux Klan who pled guilty to burning two
predominantly African American churches in South Carolina last
year were each sentenced today to at least 18 years in prison,
the Justice Department announced.  

     Gary Christopher Cox, 23, was sentenced to prison for 19 and
one half years and Timothy Adron Welch, 24, was sentenced to
prison for 18 years today in the U.S. District Court in
Charleston.  The two pled guilty last August to violating federal
civil rights and arson statutes for burning the Mt. Zion AME
Church in Greeleyville on June 20, 1995, and the Macedonia
Baptist Church in Bloomville on the following day.

     James E. Johnson, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury
(Enforcement) and Isabelle Katz Pinzler, Acting Assistant
Attorney General for Civil Rights, the co-chairs of the National
Church Arson Task Force, commended the efforts of the
investigators and prosecutors in this case.

     "The burning of churches strikes at the heart of the
community and must be stopped," said Johnson and Pinzler. 
"Federal, state, and local authorities have been working together
to solve all of these crimes, and today's sentence marks another
important step towards achieving that goal."

     In August, the government filed an information charging Cox
and Welch with violating federal civil rights and arson statutes. 
The government asserted that the Ku Klux Klan "advocated the
supremacy of white persons over black, hispanic and other
minority persons," and that the K.K.K. "taught its members that
churches attended primarily by black persons promote the
interests of black persons to the detriment of white persons."

     Two other defendants, Arthur Haley, 51, and Hubert Rowell,
50, pled guilty to conspiring with Cox and Welch to set fire to
the Macedonia Baptist Church.  Those two, also former members of
the KKK, were additionally charged with setting fire to a migrant
camp and to burning a car belonging to a black man.    

     "Today's sentences should serve as a wake-up call to those
individuals who may consider the unlawful use of force and
violence to intimidate persons based on their race and religious
beliefs," said Rene Josey, U.S. Attorney in South Carolina. "Such
outward displays of hate-generated force and violence will not be

     Cox and Welch were arrested on state charges related to the
church burnings in June 1995, and have been in jail since that
time.   They have also pled guilty to state charges of assault
and battery with intent to kill for stabbing a black man in
Berkeley County on June 16, 1995.  

     Since January 1, 1995, approximately 350 church arsons
across the country have been reported to federal authorities. 
One-hundred-fifty-nine suspects have been arrested in connection
with at least 115 of these incidents.

     The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Attorney's
Office in South Carolina, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
and Firearms, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the Clarendon County
Fire Department and Sheriff's Office.

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