Mississippi man pleads guilty in 'Vote Trump' church arson

Andrew McClinton

A member of a black church in Mississippi has pleaded guilty to burning the church, which was also spray painted with the slogan "Vote Trump," a week before the 2016 presidential election.

Posted: Mar 29, 2019 10:49 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A member of a black church in Mississippi has pleaded guilty to burning the church, which was also spray painted with the slogan "Vote Trump," a week before the 2016 presidential election.

Andrew McClinton, 47, pleaded guilty to arson Thursday, the Delta Democrat-Times reported. His sentencing is set for late April.

Investigators said McClinton, who is African-American, belonged to Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, which was vandalized and burned.

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who is also the state fire marshal, told The Associated Press that investigators believe the graffiti was intended as a distraction from some other sort of wrongdoing. Chaney would not specify what that was.

"He tried to make the arson appear it was politically motivated, but it was not," Chaney said.

Greenville, about 120 miles (193 kilometers) northwest of Jackson, is a Mississippi River port city that's a hub of commerce in the cotton-growing Delta. About 78 percent of the city's 32,100 residents are African-American.

McClinton will be sentenced as a habitual offender because he was convicted of attempted armed robbery in 1997 and armed robbery in 2004, both in another part of Mississippi.

Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1905 in the heart of an African-American neighborhood, and the congregation has about 200 members. Some walls of the beige brick church survived the fire, but the remaining walls were torn down. A new structure was built in its place.

During the first months after the fire, Hopewell members have worshipped in the chapel at First Baptist Church of Greenville, which has a predominantly white congregation.

Greenville Mayor Errick D. Simmons initially urged officials to investigate the church burning as a possible hate crime. Simmons is African-American and had been elected months earlier on a platform of seeking racial unity.

The mayor's twin, Democratic state Sen. Derrick Simmons, told AP in December 2016 that his brother had taken the right approach.

"There is a dark past in America and in the Deep South regarding the burning of African-American churches," Derrick Simmons said. "The way law enforcement authorities initially investigated this matter as a hate crime I believe was warranted, considering the past and the history."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61125

Reported Deaths: 1711
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5269106
DeSoto332627
Madison229756
Harrison215232
Rankin214628
Jackson199434
Jones177457
Forrest164053
Washington149232
Lauderdale132988
Lee123930
Neshoba119788
Lamar112112
Oktibbeha105435
Lowndes98932
Warren96427
Scott95517
Bolivar94832
Copiah91724
Panola91211
Sunflower90822
Lafayette88111
Holmes84747
Leflore84059
Pike83232
Grenada81320
Yazoo78611
Leake76825
Lincoln74540
Pontotoc7377
Wayne73321
Simpson71227
Monroe70250
Coahoma66310
Tate65023
Marion60118
Covington58811
Adams58425
Marshall5718
Winston57115
George5475
Union53113
Newton51611
Attala49824
Tallahatchie49310
Pearl River48536
Walthall45318
Chickasaw43819
Noxubee41910
Claiborne40013
Smith38013
Calhoun3788
Jasper3768
Clay37013
Alcorn3574
Prentiss3426
Hancock33614
Tishomingo3204
Lawrence3135
Tippah31212
Yalobusha31210
Itawamba30710
Clarke30025
Montgomery2933
Tunica2786
Humphreys27111
Carroll24511
Greene22611
Quitman2251
Kemper22315
Perry2227
Amite2105
Jefferson Davis2026
Webster19912
Jefferson1936
Wilkinson18712
Sharkey1801
Stone1523
Choctaw1274
Benton1250
Franklin1162
Issaquena211
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 90890

Reported Deaths: 1611
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson11859225
Mobile9086191
Montgomery6249143
Madison501425
Tuscaloosa397463
Baldwin321023
Shelby305032
Marshall296630
Unassigned273453
Lee250540
Morgan222315
Etowah193026
DeKalb170113
Elmore160237
Calhoun15609
Walker147063
Houston131912
Dallas128823
Russell12331
St. Clair121712
Franklin119620
Limestone119613
Cullman114111
Colbert109312
Lauderdale107112
Autauga102420
Escambia97915
Talladega91813
Jackson8283
Chambers82138
Tallapoosa81478
Dale78520
Butler75235
Blount7363
Chilton7106
Coffee7095
Covington70920
Pike6607
Barbour5635
Lowndes55224
Marion54224
Marengo52014
Clarke4869
Hale45926
Bullock43811
Perry4294
Winston42911
Wilcox4059
Monroe3914
Randolph38810
Bibb3743
Conecuh37310
Pickens3679
Sumter36118
Lawrence3100
Washington31011
Macon30913
Crenshaw2863
Choctaw27412
Henry2453
Cherokee2427
Greene24211
Geneva2320
Clay2175
Lamar1982
Fayette1745
Cleburne1211
Coosa922
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 69°
Columbus
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 69°
Oxford
Broken Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 64°
Starkville
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 66°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather