Federal charges have been filed against an Ohio man accused of firebombing a church after learning it was serving as a venue for drag show events, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Monday.
Authorities formally charged 20-year-old Aimenn D. Penny with a violation of the Church Arson Prevention Act after allegedly using Molotov cocktails against the Community Church of Chesterland 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 the release.
Ohio Man Charged for Attempting to Burn Down a Church that Planned to Host Drag Show Eventshttps://t.co/L0VkUaetXS
— DOJ Civil Rights (@CivilRights) April 24, 2023
Penny allegedly targeted the church after learning it was scheduled to host multiple drag show events the following weekend. “As alleged in the charging documents, the defendant used an explosive device to cause harm to a church he found objectionable,”Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division stated in a press release following the suspect’s arrest.
Olsen’s sentiments were echoed by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler for the Northern District of Ohio, who charged it was the “solemn duty” of the Justice Department to “safeguard” freedom of expression.
“Violence and destruction are never an acceptable way to express a disagreement with a particular viewpoint,” Baeppler stated in the release. “While, as Americans, we enjoy the right to disagree, doing so peacefully is the only appropriate option.” (RELATED: Police Arrest Mississippi Serial Arsonist Who Allegedly Set Fire To Seven Buildings, Including Two Churches)
Penny faces a “maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison for the violation of the Church Arson Prevention Act” and a “mandatory minimum of five years and up to 20 years in prison for the malicious use of explosive materials charge,” the Department of Justice revealed. In addition, Penny could serve up to 10 years in prison for the possession of a destructive device charge and a mandatory 10-year prison sentence that will run consecutively with any other prison term imposed if convicted of using fire to commit a federal felony, the release stated.