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: 113081

Reported Deaths: 3231
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7823176
DeSoto676778
Harrison490283
Jackson439383
Rankin385986
Madison375793
Lee349079
Forrest298078
Jones285384
Washington253799
Lafayette244042
Lauderdale2398134
Lamar219038
Bolivar199477
Oktibbeha197654
Neshoba1820111
Lowndes175562
Panola167638
Leflore163287
Sunflower158849
Warren153255
Monroe146572
Pontotoc145219
Pike137256
Lincoln136856
Marshall136226
Copiah135736
Coahoma124036
Scott123829
Grenada120638
Yazoo119933
Simpson119549
Union116025
Leake113940
Holmes113760
Tate113639
Itawamba111325
Pearl River110559
Adams105243
Prentiss102919
Wayne99421
Alcorn96712
George95718
Covington94525
Marion93342
Tippah86521
Newton84927
Chickasaw83225
Winston82621
Tallahatchie82525
Tishomingo79741
Hancock78727
Attala78126
Clarke72750
Clay68421
Jasper67417
Walthall63327
Calhoun61812
Noxubee59617
Smith58516
Claiborne53416
Montgomery53123
Tunica52317
Yalobusha51314
Lawrence50414
Perry48423
Carroll46812
Greene45918
Stone45514
Amite42013
Humphreys41916
Quitman4176
Jefferson Davis40011
Webster36613
Wilkinson33120
Kemper32115
Benton3194
Sharkey28014
Jefferson27110
Franklin2373
Choctaw2036
Issaquena1064
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 154942

Reported Deaths: 2660
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22720374
Mobile14405314
Tuscaloosa10066137
Montgomery9820196
Madison907894
Shelby715361
Lee646165
Baldwin644369
Marshall431048
Calhoun416059
Etowah412249
Morgan400033
Houston365532
DeKalb325428
Elmore312852
St. Clair283842
Limestone273630
Walker269993
Talladega259135
Cullman231024
Lauderdale212540
Jackson205515
Autauga202130
Franklin201731
Colbert193330
Russell19053
Blount187325
Dallas186027
Chilton182632
Escambia171428
Coffee16829
Covington166629
Dale163851
Chambers133043
Pike131313
Tallapoosa129587
Clarke127317
Marion105029
Butler99840
Barbour9969
Marengo98222
Winston90613
Geneva8447
Lawrence81131
Pickens81117
Randolph80514
Bibb80114
Hale74830
Cherokee72314
Clay72212
Lowndes70228
Henry6386
Bullock63717
Monroe63610
Washington62312
Crenshaw59830
Perry5816
Wilcox55912
Fayette55713
Conecuh55613
Cleburne5327
Macon53020
Sumter46821
Lamar4595
Choctaw38712
Greene34016
Coosa1993
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Broken Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 85°
Columbus
Scattered Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 84°
Oxford
Few Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 83°
Starkville
Scattered Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 83°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather