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Ohio man sentenced to 18 years in prison after firebombing church for hosting drag events


Ohio man sentenced to 18 years in prison after firebombing church for hosting drag events
instagram @chesterland_ucc; public domain/ohio court documents

Aimenn D. Penny admitted to attacking the Community Church of Chesterland on March 25 using homemade Molotov cocktails, citing anger at two upcoming drag events.

An Ohio man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for firebombing a local church that was hosting drag events last year.

Aimenn D. Penny, 20, pleaded guilty in October to using fire and explosives to commit a felony and violating the Church Arson Prevention Act.. He admitted to attacking the Community Church of Chesterland on March 25 using homemade Molotov cocktails, citing anger at two upcoming drag events hosted by the church, and their support of the LGBTQ+ community. Penny said he aimed to intimidate the church into canceling the events.

Penny said during an interview with the FBI "that he would have felt better if the Molotov cocktails were more effective and burned the entire church to the ground," according to a sentencing memo from prosecutors.

Penny was connected to the White Lives Matter group, according to an FBI affidavit, and was present at another controversial protest of a similar drag event on March 11 in Wadsworth, Ohio, “wearing military-style gear including camouflage pants, a tactical vest, and jacket with a patch showing a firearm.”

Members of White Lives Matter, which is defined by the FBI as “a group with racist, pro-Nazi, and homophobic views," were at the event “carrying swastika flags and shouting racial and homophobic slurs and ‘Heil Hitler.” A picture of Penny in attendance was included in the affidavit.

The church said in a Facebook post Tuesday that they are "relieved to be able to finally embrace some closure to what happened last year," but noted that they aren't celebrating the sentence.

"It is a tragedy that ignorance and hate is going to put this young man's life on hold for almost 20 years," they wrote.

Penny did not apologize during his sentencing, according to the Columbus Dispatch, and instead insisted the act of terrorism was an act of protest. John Greven, Penny's attorney, told the Washington Post on Tuesday that his client was "brainwashed" by misinformation. He added that he plans to appeal the length of the sentence.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division said in a statement Tuesday that the "sentence holds Mr. Penny accountable for carrying out violence against an Ohio church because he disagreed with the way congregants chose to express their beliefs."

"Such acts of extremist violence have no place in our communities," he said.

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at the Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel 'Someone Else's Stars', and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at the Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel 'Someone Else's Stars', and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.