By DAVE COLLINS, Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A 26-year-old white man was convicted Thursday in what prosecutors said was the racially motived burning of a predominantly black church in the hours after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.
An all-white, 12-member jury found Michael Jacques guilty of all the charges he faced in the burning of Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield.
Prosecutors portrayed Jacques and two friends who pleaded guilty as racists who were upset at the election of the nation’s first African-American president.
Jacques, his lawyer and family said he is not racist and only confessed during a police interrogation because he suffered withdrawal from painkillers.
Prosecutors had said during closing arguments that Jacques’ racism reached the “boiling point” when Obama was elected. They said he often used racial epithets, expressed anger that minorities were “taking over” the country and once set a dog on a black person.
Jacques was convicted of conspiracy against civil rights, damage to religious property and use of fire to commit a felony.
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