R. Todd Bennett, P.C.
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Texas man faces arson charges, pleads guilty

Crimes against property are treated seriously in Texas, and this is particularly true in cases in which the crime may have endangered the life of another. Recently, one man was found guilty of intentionally destroying property. It appears that his rationale may have been to "gain status" with the Aryan Brotherhood.

Reportedly, on Dec. 28 in 2010, the 26-year-old man from the west Texas town of Crane began a series of racially motivated crimes that ended with arson. The crimes were apparently prompted by his seeing an African-American man in a wheelchair passing by a church. According to reports, the 26-year-old subsequently decided to set fire to the Faith in Christ Church in Crane. He also allegedly hoped that the African-American man would be killed in the fire.

On Nov. 30 of this year, the 26-year-old pled guilty to damaging religious property, arson and interfering with housing. As the crimes allegedly involved racist statements and were prompted on the basis of hate, all of the crimes were prosecuted with a bias crime enhancement. The young man was sentenced to 37 years in prison.

In cases such as this one, it is important to bear in mind that all people are innocent until proven otherwise in court. Indeed, the objective of any criminal trial should be to get to the heart of the matter, and that is not necessarily possible when the trial starts on the presumption that the suspect must be guilty. In this case, the man decided to plead guilty to intentionally destroying property, and he may have perhaps done so in exchange for a lesser sentence. Nonetheless, the presentation of a strong and meaningful defense is often necessary so as to ensure a fair trial in a case that could potentially carry serious penalties.

Source: Reuters, "Texas man sentenced to 37 years for fire bombing church," Jim Forsyth, Nov. 30, 2011

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