Ohio Man Charged for Attempting to Burn Down a Church that Planned to Host Drag Show Events
Department of Justice Press Release Number: 23-469
A federal indictment was returned charging an Ohio man with a violation of the Church Arson Prevention Act for using Molotov cocktails against the Community Church of Chesterland, in Chesterland, Ohio, in an attempt to burn the church to the ground. He was also indicted on one count of using fire to commit a federal felony, one count of malicious use of explosive materials, and one count of possessing a destructive device.
According to court documents, Aimenn D. Penny, 20, of Alliance, attempted to burn the church to the ground after learning the church was holding multiple drag show events the following weekend. Penny was initially arrested and charged with federal offenses on March 31.
If convicted, Penny faces a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison for the violation of the Church Arson Prevention Act. Penny also faces a mandatory minimum of five years and up to 20 years in prison for the malicious use of explosive materials charge and up to 10 years in prison for the possession of a destructive device charge. In addition, if convicted of using fire to commit a federal felony, Penny faces a 10-year mandatory prison sentence that will run consecutively with any other prison term imposed.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler for the Northern District of Ohio, and Special Agent in Charge Gregory Nelsen of the FBI Cleveland Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI Cleveland Field Office is investigating the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Deckert and Matthew W. Shepherd for the Northern District of Ohio and Trial Attorneys Jacob Warren and Justin Sher of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case with assistance from Trial Attorney Eric Peffley of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.
An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
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If convicted, Penny faces a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison for the violation of the Church Arson Prevention Act.