An man told investigators that he tried to burn down an church in Ohio because he wanted to prevent a drag show that was scheduled to take place there, federal prosecutors allege in newly unsealed charges.
Aimenn Penny, a 20-year-old from Alliance who is a member of a “white lives matter” group that espouses racist and neo-Nazi views, tried to burn down the Community Church of Chesterland early on March 25, authorities allege in court documents unsealed Monday. Chesterland is a small community east of Cleveland.
According to the criminal complaint, Penny said he tried to burn down the church using Molotov cocktails because he wanted to “protect the children and stop the drag show event.” He also regretted that it didn’t work, authorities said.
The FBI said the church, which was unoccupied at the time, sustained minimal damage and had scorch marks on the front door. According to court documents, investigators found broken glass from a vodka bottle and a beer bottle each containing a cloth-type material, along with a burnt matchstick and a blue plastic spray bottle filled with gasoline.
Penny was arrested March 31 and remains in custody. His attorney, John Greven, has declined to comment on the charges.
Penny is charged with violating the Church Arson Prevention Act, using fire to commit a federal felony, the malicious use of explosive materials and possessing a destructive device. He faces up to 50 years in prison if he’s convicted on all counts.