Church fires

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 12, 2007

Trio’s youthful offender status may be denied



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The three young men already sentenced in federal court for a series of church fires will be in court today and state prosecutors said Wednesday they’re hoping to get their youthful offender status denied, and sentenced to some hefty time in state prison.

A hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. today in Bibb County Circuit Court in Centreville, before Judge Marvin Wiggins. Matthew Cloyd, Benjamin Nathan Moseley and Russell Lee DeBusk, all 20, are in custody of the Bibb County Sheriff’s Department, and were picked up Wednesday.

District Attorney Michael Jackson said he doesn’t mind if the men serve their state time along with the seven and eight years they will spend in federal custody, but they are facing up to 20 years for the state charges.

The three men pleaded guilty in federal court in December 2006 to arson and conspiracy charges in connection with nine church fires set on two nights in February 2006. Five of the churches were in Bibb County &045; all torched in one night. Four others were burned in Pickens, Greene and Sumter counties.

All three men admitted being involved in the first five blazes, as one called the fires &8220;a joke&8221; that got out of hand during a night of drunken poaching. Cloyd and Moseley confessed to setting the fires in Pickens, Greene and Sumter counties in an effort to create a diversion for investigators.

Letters and support for the upper-middle class defendants that described the men as &8220;bright young men&8221; who were &8220;led astray by alcohol&8221; and their peers.