AXTON, Va. (WDBJ7.com) – A Henry County teenager admitted in court Tuesday morning to setting an Axton church on fire because most of the church’s congregants are black.
Jean-Claude Bridges, 18, pleaded guilty to setting the New Holy Deliverance Outreach Ministry on fire May 20. He told investigators that he and another juvenile set the church on fire.
Bridges faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“Mr. Bridges’ racial bias led him to commit the dangerous crime of arson,” U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy wrote in a news release. “When he set fire to the New Holy Deliverance Outreach Ministry, he endangered neighbors and first responders. This act of prejudice offended the entire community. This office will protect the civil rights of everyone and vigorously prosecute crimes like that committed by Mr. Bridges. Racism has no place in Axton or anywhere else in the Western District of Virginia.”