BIBB COUNTY, Alabama -- Russell Lee DeBusk Jr., one of three former Birmingham college students arrested in March 2006 for a string of church burnings, is to be released early from state prison, his lawyer said today.
DeBusk in April had been released from federal prison where he had been serving a prison sentence related to the arson. But he was immediately returned to Alabama to serve an additional two-year state term. He had been scheduled to be released from his state sentence on May 6, 2014.
DeBusk's attorney, Brett Bloomston, said this evening that Bibb County Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins had entered an order today retroactively making the state sentence run concurrent with the federal sentence. That, in effect, means DeBusk has completed his state sentence.
"He should be released in a day or two," Bloomston said. "Russell (DeBusk) has served his debt to society. Now he is ready to repay the community he affected and the churches he has affected."
DeBusk still must serve hundreds of hours of community service.
Bloomston had previously made motions seeking a reduction in DeBusk's sentence. He said a hearing was recently held at which churches and the district attorney opposed DeBusk's early release.
Bloomston said he cited DeBusk's good behavior in federal prison, including his work as a prison industry supervisor, in his efforts to convince the judge to change the sentence.
Among the conditions Wiggins placed on DeBusk are that he must complete 200 hours of community service that are to include his participation with church-building mission groups and speaking to youth about his case and how his life has been affected by his decisions. The conditions in the judge's order also include that Debusk complete his undergraduate degree, and maintain employment "to the extent that is does not adversely affect his education."
DeBusk also must file quarterly reports with the judge outlining his compliance with the order.
DeBusk had been sentenced in federal court to seven years in federal prison. He was released early from that sentence with good time credit.
DeBusk, a former theater student at Birmingham-Southern College, pleaded guilty to taking part in five church burnings in Bibb County on Feb. 3, 2006, and was given a shorter federal sentence than his former BSC classmates, Benjamin Moseley and Matthew Cloyd, who took part in burning nine rural churches. After the five fires set in Bibb County, Moseley and Cloyd burned four more churches in Sumter, Greene and Pickens counties on Feb. 7, 2006, in an attempt to distract investigators.
Moseley and Cloyd both were sentenced to eight years in federal prison. Both are scheduled to be released next year and both also face two-year state sentences.
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