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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: 66646

Reported Deaths: 1874
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5599118
DeSoto363230
Harrison249836
Madison241464
Rankin227633
Jackson226942
Jones188558
Forrest177856
Washington164641
Lee142839
Lauderdale140792
Neshoba128592
Lamar120214
Oktibbeha111838
Bolivar110834
Warren108932
Lowndes107437
Panola105412
Sunflower102425
Scott99820
Lafayette96416
Copiah95028
Pike92836
Leflore92562
Holmes89048
Grenada84321
Yazoo82912
Pontotoc8218
Lincoln80941
Simpson79530
Leake78625
Monroe77853
Wayne76421
Coahoma74312
Tate72028
Marshall6889
Marion65720
Union62716
Winston62016
Adams61725
Covington61213
George5595
Newton54211
Pearl River54038
Tallahatchie53010
Attala52125
Walthall49819
Chickasaw45920
Noxubee45311
Alcorn4195
Calhoun4179
Prentiss41710
Tishomingo4095
Claiborne40413
Smith40413
Clay39413
Hancock38814
Jasper3879
Tippah36013
Itawamba35810
Tunica3337
Clarke32625
Montgomery3213
Lawrence3197
Yalobusha31310
Humphreys29111
Quitman2621
Carroll26111
Greene24111
Kemper23214
Perry2327
Jefferson Davis2316
Amite2306
Webster22812
Wilkinson20513
Sharkey1975
Jefferson1957
Stone1944
Benton1431
Choctaw1334
Franklin1242
Issaquena261
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12969243
Mobile9836206
Montgomery6609148
Madison531433
Tuscaloosa419073
Unassigned356061
Baldwin350224
Shelby326035
Marshall313035
Lee266045
Morgan236918
Etowah210431
DeKalb179813
Calhoun176113
Elmore171538
Walker152064
Houston138612
Russell13582
St. Clair132817
Dallas131823
Limestone131813
Franklin127020
Cullman122012
Colbert117113
Lauderdale115717
Autauga108621
Escambia107516
Talladega100913
Jackson9684
Tallapoosa85479
Chambers84038
Dale82723
Blount7884
Chilton7886
Butler75836
Coffee7566
Covington73420
Pike7037
Clarke6629
Barbour5735
Lowndes57124
Marion57024
Marengo55315
Hale47326
Bullock46311
Winston45011
Perry4404
Bibb4265
Wilcox42610
Monroe4194
Randolph39610
Pickens3929
Conecuh38810
Washington38612
Sumter36018
Lawrence3481
Macon33414
Crenshaw3143
Choctaw28112
Cherokee2707
Henry2593
Geneva2570
Clay2525
Greene25011
Lamar2202
Fayette2045
Cleburne1261
Coosa1012
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