Church Fire Trio Seeks Lighter Term

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Three former college students who pleaded guilty to federal charges in a string of church arsons will seek youthful offenders status when they answer state charges in the fires.

Lawyers for Matthew Cloyd, Russell Lee DeBusk and Benjamin Nathan Moseley said the move could reduce their punishment for the blazes.

If the trio are classified as youth offenders, they would face a maximum of three years in jail and their court records would be sealed. But Bibb County District Attorney Michael Jackson said he doesn't expect a state judge to grant the request. He said he plans to push for long prison terms against each defendant.

Bibb County Judge Marvin Wiggins scheduled a hearing for April 12th to consider the request.

The hearing will be held three days after the three are scheduled to be in federal court for their sentencing. Each faces a minimum of seven years in federal prison.

Cloyd and Moseley pleaded guilty in December to a federal indictment charging them with conspiracy and arson in burning nine churches in Bibb, Pickens, Greene and Sumter counties. DeBusk pleaded guilty to conspiracy and burning five churches in Bibb County.

The three also face state arson charges in Greene, Pickens and Sumter counties.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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