A Virginia minister was sentenced to two years in prison for setting his front porch on fire in what he tried to pass off as a hate crime.
Olander D. Cuthrell, a minister of music at Gospel Shepherd Baptist Church in Chesterfield County told the judge he was remorseful for pouring oil and gasoline on his family’s front porch and setting it ablaze March 15.
He told Chesterfield police he had been overwhelmed by his family’s financial problems, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“It was the most irrational decision that I made in my life,” Cuthrell told the judge Thursday. “I can’t say just how bad I hate it.”
Prior to igniting the fire, Cuthrell, 41, spray-painted the N-word on two sides of his rental house to deceive police into thinking that he had been the target of a racially motivated attack.
The minister also set on fire a bottle filled with oil and gas inside a1992 BMV parked outside the house.
“After setting the two fires, he went back inside the house, undressed and climbed into bed, waiting for the house to burn down,” Chesterfield prosecutor Laura Khawaja told the court.
The porch fire was discovered and extinguished by Cuthrell’s oldest son while the minister, his wife and three of his sons were inside. The car fire burned out by itself.
Police and FBI investigated the incident as a possible hate crime, with Cuthrell telling news outlets that he was the victim of a racially motivated attack.
But investigators focused their attention on Cuthrell within 10 days of the investigation and arrested him April 2. He eventually admitted to setting the fires.
This was not Cuthrell’s first run in with the law. Khawaja told the court that 12 years ago in North Carolina the minister falsely claimed he had been robbed in order to cover up his theft from an employer. He was later convicted of filing a false police report.
The church will allow Cuthrell to continue as music minister when he’s released from prison, according to the Times-Dispatch.
“I think he is a good man who did something bad in a moment of weakness,” defense attorney Richard Gates said.
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch