Holden Matthews pleaded guilty to burning several historically black churches in Louisiana to boost his prile as a black-metal musician, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Matthews, the 22-year-old son a sheriff’s deputy, was arrested last April and has now pleaded guilty to three counts intentionally damaging a religious building — which is classified as a federal hate — and one count using fire to commit a federal felony. He will be sentenced May 22nd, and faces a mandatory minimum 10 years and a maximum sentence 70 years in prison.
“The Department Justice will remain unwavering in its protection the freedom to practice religion without the threat discrimination or violence,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband the Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “Matthews admitted to setting fire to three churches because their religious character. His disgraceful conduct violated the civil rights the church’s parishioners and harmed their communities.”
At a recent plea hearing, Matthews admitted to setting fire to three Baptist churches around Opelousas, Louisiana, last March and April. He said he chose the churches specifically because he believed the religious nature the buildings would help “raise his prile as a ‘black metal’ musician.” He also admitted to posting on Facebook videos and photos he took the churches burning to garner notoriety in the black-metal community.
Matthews acknowledged that he was inspired by a series similar crimes carried out by Varg Vikernes in Norway in the Nineties. Vikernes was the bassist for the black-metal band Mayhem, as well as a figurehead in the Norwegian neo-Nazi movement, and he served 15 years in prison for burning several churches and stabbing his bandmate, Euronymous, in 1993 over a contract dispute.