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Ohio Man Gets 18-Year Term For Throwing Molotov Cocktails At Church Planning Drag Shows

Updated: Feb 1

An Ohio man who prosecutors said had tried to burn down a church in anger by throwing Molotov cocktails at it last year because it planned to host two drag shows was sentenced on Monday to 18 years in prison, the New York Times reports. The man, Aimenn D. Penny, 20, of Alliance, Ohio, who was arrested and charged after the March 25 episode, pleaded guilty in October to violating the Church Arson Prevention Act and to using fire and explosives to commit a felony, according to federal prosecutors, who had recommended a 20-year sentence. “We hope this significant sentence sends a clear and resounding message that this type of hate-fueled attack against a church will not be tolerated in our country,” Kristen Clarke, who leads the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said. John W. Greven, a lawyer for Penny, said in an interview on Tuesday that his client intended to appeal the sentence. He called Penny’s case “a classic example” of a young person looking for acceptance and turning to the internet to find it.

“I feel he was brainwashed by some people because really there is nothing in his past that would ever indicate that he would do something like this,” Greven said. “It’s sad all the way around.” The Community Church of Chesterland had planned to host two drag shows on April 1, 2023. Days before the scheduled events, on March 25, the church reported to local police that the building had been damaged by Molotov cocktails during the night, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. There were scorch marks on the front door and a sign outside the building, according to the complaint. A sign on the property had also been damaged. The drag shows — one drag show meant for adults and one drag story hour for families — were held as planned. “I’m not going to pretend that his violent and hateful acts didn’t scare some people,” Jess Peacock, the pastor of the church, said at the sentencing hearing on Monday. “It did. We had a few people leave the church, and the preschool which operated out of our building chose to find a new facility.” The Cleveland Field Office of the F.B.I. learned during the investigation that Penny was responsible for the attack and that he was a member of an Ohio group called White Lives Matter, which has “racist, pro-Nazi, and homophobic views,” according to the complaint.


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