A Mississippi man who in 2016 burned down a historically black church -- the same place that had once been vandalized with political graffiti -- was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday.
Circuit Judge Margaret Carey-McCray ordered that 47-year-old Andrew McClinton serve a decade behind bars, and also get 10 years of supervision following his release, for burning down Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church just a week before the 2016 presidential election.
McClinton pleaded guilty in March to arson charges, but denied vandalizing the church with the spray-painted phrase “Vote Trump.”
Washington County District Attorney Dewayne Richardson told The Associated Press that McClinton gave investigators varying accounts of setting the fire but never claimed responsibility for the graffiti.
Some initially suspected the fire was a hate crime, but Richardson said McClinton was trying to hide illicit activities inside the church. The night the church was burned, the members had planned to gather and McClinton believed they were going to disclose those activities, Richardson added.
McClinton was a member of the 200-person congregation. The church, originally built in in 1905, was devastated with the exception of some walls. The remaining features were torn down and a new structure was built in its place.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.