He had pleaded guilty to state and federal charges. Summerhays said when Matthews is sentenced in state court, that judge may order the sentence to be served at the same time as the federal one.
Matthews pleaded guilty in federal court to three counts of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act and to one of using fire to commit a federal felony.
Summerhays ordered him to pay $1.1 million in restitution to Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church and $970,213.30 to Greater Union Baptist Church, both in Opelousas, and $590,246 to St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church in Port Barre.
All three were burned down over 10 days in March and April 2019. The churches were empty at the time of the fires, and no one was injured.
Although race was not considered a motive, Summerhays said, he had to consider that the crime brought the church communities back to a dark time of racial discrimination, the newspaper reported.
“These churches trace their origins to the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and, for generations, were a place for predominantly African American Christians to gather, pray, worship, and celebrate their faith,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division, said in the news release. “The churches survived for nearly 150 years but did not survive this defendant’s warped act of hatred.”
The judge asked the Bureau of Prisons to put Matthews in a prison near his family and to ensure that he gets substance abuse counseling and mental health treatment, KATC-TV reported.
The hearing had begun Friday but was cut short after new evidence was introduced. On Friday, clinical psychologist and LSU Professor Mary Lou Kelley — a defense witness — testified that Matthews struggles with anxiety, depression and arrested social development.
Matthews pleaded guilty in state court to three state hate crime counts, two of simple arson of a religious building and one of aggravated arson of a religious building. That sentencing had been scheduled Monday but was postponed with no date set, The Advocate reported.