WASHINGTON, June 12 (Xinhua) -- A U.S. man has been charged with federal hate crimes for setting fire to and destroying three churches in the southern state of Louisiana, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
According to a press release, Holden Matthews, 21-year-old son of a St. Landry Parish deputy, intentionally set fire to three churches in rural Louisiana between late March and early April this year.
The historically African American churches were reportedly empty at the time, and no one was injured.
An indictment alleges that the white man was motivated to set the fires because of the religious character of these properties.
Matthews is charged with three counts of intentional damage to religious property, hate crime charges that fall under the Church Arson Prevention Act, and with three counts of using fire to commit a felony.
If convicted, Matthews faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years per count of intentional damage to religious property.
He faces an additional mandatory minimum of 10 years for the first count of using fire to commit a felony and 20 years for the subsequent counts, all to run consecutively.