Judge Sentences 3 Former College Students To Prison

Monday, April 9th 2007, 10:00 pm
By: News On 6

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) _ Two former college students were sentenced Monday to eight years each in federal prison for a rash of rural church fires that began as a prank during a night of drinking.

A third friend, who wasn't involved in all the fires, was sentenced to seven years.

Dressed in orange jail uniforms with shackles around their feet, each man apologized for the blazes, set during a night of underage drinking and illicit hunting.

``I'm truly sorry for that,'' Matthew Cloyd, 21, said quietly. ``I'm ready to accept the consequences of my actions.''

Russell Lee DeBusk Jr., who received the lighter sentence, said the three decided to break into a single church on Feb. 3, 2006, and set plastic plants on fire during a night of cruising the countryside and drinking.

``A snowball effect happened as we proceeded to set four more churches on fire,'' said DeBusk, 20. Three days later, Cloyd and Benjamin Moseley, 20, set four more fires in a bid to throw agents off their trail.

U.S. District Judge David Proctor also ordered Cloyd and Moseley to pay $3.1 million in restitution and DeBusk to pay $1.9 million. Following their release, each man must perform 300 hours of community service work at the burned-out churches.

The minister of Dancy First Baptist Church, the Rev. Walter Hawkins, asked the judge for leniency and said his congregation has forgiven the three. Hawkins said he hoped the men do not receive additional prison time in state court, where they are due for a hearing later this week.