Holden James Matthews was sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison for setting three historically Black churches in Louisiana ablaze last year, ABC News reports.
Matthews, 22, pleaded guilty in February to three counts of using fire to commit a felony and three counts of intentional damage to religious property. Under the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, the latter charges constitute as a hate crime.
He was facing up to 70 years behind bars.
On March 26, 2019, Matthews set fire to St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, Louisiana. Less a week later, he did the same to the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, Louisiana before torching the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church two days later. Investigators were able to nab Matthews with the crimes after discovering that three gas cans used to burn one of the churches was purchased at a local Walmart with a credit card linked back to him.
Matthews admitted to federal prosecutors that he set the churches on fire because of the "religious character of these buildings." He also wanted to use the photos and videos taken at the scene for promotional purposes on Facebook to increase his visibility as a "Black Metal" musician. After a two-day hearing where displaced parishioners delivered their own impassioned statements, Matthews apologized for his actions, claiming he has since found his faith.
Matthews, son of a sheriff's deputy in St. Landry Parish, will be required to pay nearly $2.7 million in restitution to the three churches.