Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press, March 28, 2019
A member of a black church in Mississippi has pleaded guilty to burning the church, which was also spray painted with the slogan “Vote Trump,” a week before the 2016 presidential election.
Andrew McClinton, 47, pleaded guilty to arson Thursday, the Delta Democrat-Times reported. His sentencing is set for late April.
Investigators said McClinton, who is African-American, belonged to Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, which was vandalized and burned.
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who is also the state fire marshal, told The Associated Press that investigators believe the graffiti was intended as a distraction from some other sort of wrongdoing. Chaney would not specify what that was.
“He tried to make the arson appear it was politically motivated, but it was not,” Chaney said.
McClinton will be sentenced as a habitual offender because he was convicted of attempted armed robbery in 1997 and armed robbery in 2004, both in another part of Mississippi.
Greenville Mayor Errick D. Simmons initially urged officials to investigate the church burning as a possible hate crime. Simmons is African-American and had been elected months earlier on a platform of seeking racial unity.