Conneaut Man Pleads Guilty to Setting Fire to African-American Church
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 29, 2010|
Ronald J. Pudder pled guilty today to one count of intentionally damaging, destroying, and attempting to destroy religious property, because of the race, color, and ethnic characteristics of individuals associated with that property, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
Pudder, 23, lives in Conneaut, Ohio. He is scheduled to be sentenced February 9, 2011 at 10 a.m. by U.S. District Judge John Adams.
Pudder admitted that on May 20, 2010, he set on fire the First Azusa Apostolic Faith Church of God, located at 312 Jefferson Street in Conneaut, Ohio. This church is the sole African-American church in the Conneaut area.
Neighbors called police around 4:45 a.m. after seeing the church in flames. The front door was scorched, but fortunately, the flames did not penetrate the interior the church. Investigators later determined an door had been doused with an accelerant, as had other doors on the church, but those did not catch fire.
"Crimes like these leave scars," Dettelbach said. "Not just physical scars to the building, but emotional ones, to the souls of the congregants. Doing this attack based on the parishoners' race is an act that does violence to who we are as Americans and Ohioans."
This case is being prosecuted by Patricia A. Sumner, trial attorney with the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney James V. Moroney, following an investigation by the Painesville Resident Agency of the Cleveland FBI and the Conneaut Police Department.