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Man charged with hate crimes pleads guilty

Holden Matthews, accused of setting fire last year to three predominantly black St. Landry Parish churches, entered plea deals Monday in state and federal courts, facing a minimum of 10 years in prison.

Matthews pleaded guilty to three federal charges of intentional damage to religious property,  which are hate crimes under the Church Arson Prevention Act. He also pleaded guilty to one federal count of using fire to commit a felony.

Matthews also pleaded guilty to six charges at the state level; three hate crime charges, two simple arson charges and one charge of aggravated arson. He will be required to register with the state as an arsonist upon his eventual release from prison.

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“This is a result of a lot of hurting, a community that’s been trying to heal and it’s been an extraordinary show of faith. But this ended with justice,” said Louisiana State Fire Marshal Butch Browning outside the St. Landry Parish Courthouse Monday. “What we want to tell this community is every bit of resources and every agency across America came together. This was the No. 1 thing to solve when this happened and to provide assurance that it wasn’t going to happen again.”

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