FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
TWO MEN SENTENCED FOR BIAS CRIME AT HISTORICALLY AFRICAN-AMERICAN CHURCH
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced the sentencing of two Virginia men for their roles in the January 2004 racially-motivated desecration of a historically African-American church.
“These two men deliberately desecrated a house of worship because of the racial makeup of its congregation, committing a disgraceful assault on fundamental American values,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We remain committed to protecting religious institutions and all Americans from racially motivated crimes.”
“These types of hate crimes can never be tolerated,” said United States Attorney John Brownlee. “With today’s sentencings, we have sent an important message that we will protect every member of our community.”
On January 12, 2004, Zachary Lee Bryant and Christopher Martin forcibly broke into the Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia. Once inside, the men desecrated the church by breaking out windows in the sanctuary; shattering light fixtures; throwing hymnals through the broken windows; discharging a fire extinguisher throughout the church; smashing items in the church with a metal post; tearing out sinks and toilets; and ripping photographs of congregants from the sanctuary wall and smashing them on the church floor.
Both men pleaded guilty on July 16, 2004. Bryant was sentenced to serve 27 months in prison and a $3000 fine. Martin was sentenced to serve 21 months in prison and a $3000 fine. Each man was also ordered to pay $850 in restitution to the church.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Roanoke City Police Department investigated this case. It was jointly prosecuted by attorneys from the Civil Rights Division and the office if the United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia.
Prosecuting the perpetrators of bias-motivated crimes remains a top priority of the Justice Department. Since 2001, the Civil Rights Division has charged 126 defendants in 81 cases of bias-motivated crime.