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Monday, June 5, 2023

Ohio Man Arrested on Explosives Charges Allegedly Tried to Burn Down Church to Stop Drag Show

According to the criminal complaint, Penny is a member of White Lives Matter and "made it clear that he believes - and looks forward to - the civil war coming between races."

An Ohio man was arrested this morning and charged with one count of malicious use of explosive materials and one count of possessing a destructive device.

According to court documents, on March 25, Aimenn D. Penny, 20, of Alliance, used Molotov cocktails against the Community Church of Chesterland (CCC), in Chesterland, Ohio, in an attempt to burn the church to the ground.

The document says that Penny told officials he tried to burn the church to stop the planned hosting of two drag show events on April 1, 2023. A search of Penny’s residence “revealed among other things, a hand-written manifesto that contained ideological statements, a Nazi flag, Nazi memorabilia, a White Lives Matter of Ohio t-shirt, a gas mask, multiple rolls of blue painters tape, and gas cans.”

“As alleged in the charging documents, the defendant used an explosive device to cause harm to a church he found objectionable,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “It is the solemn duty of the Department of Justice to safeguard the right of all Americans to free expression, and I commend the work of law enforcement in this matter.”

“Violence and destruction are never an acceptable way to express a disagreement with a particular viewpoint,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler for the Northern District of Ohio. “While, as Americans, we enjoy the right to disagree, doing so peacefully is the only appropriate option. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio remains committed to protecting the rights of all citizens to express their viewpoints peacefully.”

“The FBI Cleveland Joint Terrorism Task Force worked alongside the Chester Township Police Department in the matter surrounding a Molotov cocktail used against the Community Church of Chesterland on March 25. The FBI leveraged its task force and its specialized resources to identify, locate and subsequently arrest the subject earlier today,” said Special Agent in Charge Gregory Nelsen of the FBI Cleveland Field Office. “We thank the collaborative work and strong partnership of the Chester Township Police and Lake and Geauga County local authorities who assisted.”

If convicted, Penny faces a mandatory minimum of five years and up to 20 years in prison for the malicious use of explosive materials charge and up to 10 years in prison for the possession of a destructive device charge.

The FBI Cleveland Field Office is investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Deckert for the Northern District of Ohio and Trial Attorneys Jacob Warren and Justin Sher of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.

Read more at the Justice Department

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