Attempted Drag Show Arsonist Gets 18-Year Prison Term

( – Last March, 20-year-old Aimenn Penny of Alliance, Ohio, attempted to burn down the Community Church of Chesterland with Molotov cocktails. He was apparently upset with the LGBTQ-friendly events the house of worship offered and chose violence to show his frustration. Several days after the attempt, he was arrested and charged with a single count each of malicious use of explosive materials, violating the Church Arson Prevention Act, possessing a destructive device, and using fire to commit a federal felony. He pleaded guilty to two charges in October and has now been sentenced.

On Tuesday, January 30, the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs announced that Penny had been sentenced to 18 years in prison for the crimes. After he serves, he will remain on supervised release for three years. The hate crime itself carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. He was originally facing more than 30 years.

The motive for Penny’s crime centered on his frustration that the church was scheduled to host drag events and had a standing reputation for supporting the LGBTQ community. Following the verdict, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said, “Such acts of extremist violence have no place in our communities,” and those who think they can penetrate them need to be held accountable. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said she hoped it sent a “clear and resounding message” that such behavior wouldn’t be tolerated in the United States.

According to the FBI, Penny is a member of two extremist groups, the Blood Tribe and White Lives Matter. When he was sentenced, he did not issue any type of apology. His attack also did not stop the drag story events from happening. Rev. Jess Peacock, minister of the church, said instead of sowing division or causing damage, Penny actually drew the community closer together. He also noted it wasn’t the first time the house of worship had been targeted.

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