A Colorado man was sentenced to 39 months in prison for a hate crime charge in connection with a fire that he set to a church in Loveland, Colorado, on Jan. 19, 2023. Darion Ray Sexton, 22, pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime charge on May 5, 2023.
“Places of worship are critical for our communities, and this office stands ready to protect them,” said U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan for the District of Colorado. “Religious freedom means being free to worship without fear. Our office will take every appropriate action to ensure that every Coloradan enjoys this essential freedom.”
“This defendant has now been held accountable for his deliberate attack on the church,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “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.”
“This defendant admitted he set out to destroy this church, which was determined to be a federal hate crime,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark D. Michalek of the FBI Denver Field Office. “FBI Denver worked with the Loveland Police Department to bring this man to justice. Anyone who attacks a house of worship will get the full attention of the FBI. 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.”
“Arson is not only destructive and deadly, but also undermines the sense of safety within places of worship,” said Special Agent in Charge Brent Beavers of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “We immediately committed all ATF resources to addressing the impact of this arson by deploying our certified fire investigator, an ATF Task Force Officer with their ATF trained accelerant detection canine and ATF Laboratory services to analyze fire debris and evidence. Early and continued collaboration with our local and federal partners ensured justice once again prevailed.”
According to court documents, Sexton pleaded guilty to intentionally setting fire to the church in the evening hours of Jan. 19, 2023. Sexton admitted that he set this fire by throwing two Molotov cocktails at the church — one at the front door and the other at the basement. Sexton further admitted that he was motivated to set this fire due to the religious character of the church and that he intended to destroy the church.
The FBI, ATF and the Loveland Police and Fire Departments conducted the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan D. Fields for the District of Colorado and Trial Attorney Maura White of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.