BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Dec. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- MATTHEW LEE CLOYD,
BENJAMIN NATHAN MOSELEY, and RUSSELL LEE DEBUSK, JR., plead guilty today to
the offenses of conspiracy and arson in connection with a string of church
arsons that spanned from February 3 through February 7, 2006. The men have
remained in U.S. Marshal custody since their arrest on March 8, 2006, after
a criminal complaint was filed in U.S. District Court. CLOYD, MOSELEY and
DEBUSK were indicted in U.S. District Court on March 29, 2006.
"These senseless crimes have resulted in incalculable losses," stated
U.S. Attorney Alice H. Martin. "The devastation of nine church homes, as
well as the devastation of these young men's families - think before you
act is the lesson others should heed - some actions have dire consequences.
It is a sad day," adds U.S. Attorney Martin.
CLOYD, 21, of Pelham, and MOSELEY, 20, of Birmingham, plead guilty to
the ten count indictment which charges in count 1, that all the defendants
conspired to damage and destroy by fire nine churches in Bibb, Pickens,
Greene, and Sumter Counties. This conspiracy count also alleges that
persons were injured as a direct and proximate result of the charged
offense. Counts 2-6 charge all the defendants with damaging and destroying
by fire five churches located in Bibb County. Counts 7-10 charge CLOYD and
MOSELEY with damaging and destroying by fire four churches located in West
Alabama. The affected churches and dates of the fires are listed:
2/3/06 Rehobeth Baptist, Bibb County
2/3/06 Ashby Baptist, Bibb County
2/3/06 Old Union Baptist, Bibb County
2/3/06 Pleasant Sabine Baptist, Bibb County
2/3/06 Antioch Baptist, Bibb County
2/7/06 Dancy Baptist Church, Pickens County
2/7/06 Morning Star Missionary Baptist, Greene County
2/7/06 Spring Valley Baptist, Sumter County
2/7/06 Galilee Baptist Church, Sumter County
DEBUSK, 20, of Hoover, plead guilty without a written plea agreement to
counts 1-6 of the indictment.
The written plea agreements contain waivers of the right to appeal and
post-conviction relief. The factual basis contained in the plea agreements
for CLOYD and MOSELEY states that during the evening hours of February 2,
2006, CLOYD, MOSELEY, and DeBUSK traveled from Jefferson County, Alabama,
to Bibb County, Alabama, in CLOYD's dark green Toyota 4Runner to spotlight
deer while drinking beer. After a period of time, the three drove to
Rehobeth Baptist Church and broke into the church where artificial flowers
were set on fire. The three fled the scene and continued to other churches
in the area where they broke into those churches and set fires as well.
In the days following the church fires, the three men followed the
local news reports regarding the investigation into the first series of
fires. CLOYD and MOSELEY became concerned that the investigators were
getting close to discovering their actions, so they made a plan to divert
the investigation further away from Birmingham in to West Alabama. On the
night of February 6, 2006, CLOYD and MOSELEY drove to Galilee Baptist
Church located in Sumter County, Alabama, and broke into the church and
started a fire there. They repeated this act at three more churches in the
West Alabama area and returned to Birmingham.
Agents, in the meanwhile, were gathering evidence from the fire scenes
and were able to trace tire tracks to CLOYD's Toyota 4Runner. On March 8,
2006, CLOYD was arrested near his Birmingham apartment. Agents also
arrested MOSELEY and DeBUSK on March 8, 2006.
"Today's guilty pleas bring this case full circle; the young defendants
admitted to their actions," stated James Cavanaugh, Special Agent in
Charge, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "Although good police
work has prevailed, the victimized church communities continue to heal."
"These guilty pleas represent the tireless efforts of many law
enforcement agencies to bring this matter to justice," stated Carmen S.
Adams, Special Agent in Charge, Birmingham Field Division, Federal Bureau
of Investigation. "The destruction of a house of worship is something the
FBI and our local, state and federal partners take very seriously. We
appreciate the efforts of everyone involved."
The minimum mandatory sentence faced by each of the three men is not
less than seven years and not more than forty years and a fine of not more
than $250,000 or both, for each count. In addition, each must serve a term
of supervised release following their prison terms of not more than five
years. Under the advisory federal sentencing guidelines, the sentences for
counts 1-10 can run concurrently. The sentencing hearing will be set and
punishment will be determined by the court at a later date.
Assistant United States Attorneys Herbert H. Henry and Michael W.
Whisonant are prosecuting this case on behalf of the U.S. Government.
Special Agents of ATF and FBI along with numerous local law enforcement
investigated this case.
United States Attorney's Office Press Releases are also on the
Internet, visit www.usdoj.gov/usao/aln.
Jill Ellis, Public Information Contact, 205-244-2015
SOURCE United States Attorney's Office