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Colorado man pleads guilty to federal hate crime for Loveland church arson


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    LOVELAND, Colorado (KCNC) — Darion Ray Sexton pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday to a hate crime in connection with a fire he intentionally set to a church in Loveland earlier this year.

Police in Loveland arrested Sexton, 22, after the fire at the church on Jan. 19. According to investigators, Sexton admitted that he set the fire by throwing two Molotov cocktails at the church, one at the front door and the other at the basement. He also admitted that he was motivated to set the fire due to the religious character of the church and that he intended to destroy the church.

The FBI, ATF and the Loveland Police and Fire Departments investigated the case.

“Protecting religious freedom and observance is a top priority for the Department of Justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a statement. “We will continue to vigorously prosecute those who attack houses of worship and target religious communities.”

“We all have a right to feel safe and secure in our houses of worship – no matter our religion or belief,” said U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan for the District of Colorado in a statement. “An act of violence in one of our sacred places is especially serious, and we will work with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute all such offenses.”

“The FBI treats hate crimes as the highest priority of our civil rights program because everyone deserves to feel safe to exercise their religion without fear of violence from others,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark Michalek of the FBI Denver Field Office in a statement. “FBI Denver is committed to protecting those rights, and we will continue to aggressively work with our law enforcement partners to bring justice to all communities that have been targeted.”

Sexton is scheduled for July 21. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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