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A man with ties to a White Lives Matter hate group has pleaded guilty to firebombing a church because it scheduled drag shows.
20-year-old Aimenn Penny pleaded guilty on Tuesday to “using force through fire and explosives” with the intend of blocking members of a Chesterland, Ohio congregation from “enjoyment and expression of their religious beliefs,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
On March 25, Penny loaded two Molotov cocktails in his car, drove to the community church of Chesterland and threw them at the building. Penny damaged a sign. However, no one was injured.
Ironically, the FBI classifies the White Lives Matter group as an extremist group with racist and neo-Nazi views.
“Attempting to burn down the community church of Chesterland for their support of the LGBTQI+ community is reprehensible,” assistant attorney general Kristen Clarke, of the justice department’s civil rights division, stated on Tuesday.
Tips and tracking lead FBI to White Lives Matter terrorist
At Penny’s home FBI agents found a Nazi flag, Nazi memorabilia, and a White Lives Matters of Ohio T-shirt. They also found a gas mask, multiple rolls of blue painter’s paint and gas cans.
White Lives Matter member Aimenn Penny pleaded guilty to violating the Church Arson Prevention Act. It comes months after authorities first charged him in March.
With four charges altogether, he faces up to 20 years in prison just for the Church Arson Prevention Act violation. He also faces a 10-year mandatory prison sentence for using fire to commit a felony.
Despite the violent intimidation tactic from a member of White Lives Matter, the drag shows went on as planned.
“Violence is never appropriate to settle differences in beliefs. All members of our community are entitled to peacefully assemble, worship, and express themselves freely, without fear of violence or intimidation,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said.
“And the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio will aggressively prosecute criminals who threaten that right,” he added.
Penny’s sentencing hearing takes place on Jan. 29, 2024.
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