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Man sentenced to 2 years for threatening to burn down Black church in Virginia

John Malcolm Bareswill phoned in the threat after a church leader took part in a vigil for George Floyd, prosecutors said.

A North Carolina man who threatened to burn down a Black church in Virginia after a church leader took part in a George Floyd vigil was sentenced to two years in prison Thursday, prosecutors said.

John Malcolm Bareswill, 63, pleaded guilty in August for making the June 7 threat by phone to the church in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

He also used a racial slur in the call, which prosecutors said in court documents amounted to saying they needed to "shut the [expletive] up."

Bareswill made the call days after a church leader took part in a prayer vigil and demonstration for Floyd, the Black man who died in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white police officer kneeled on his neck.

Bareswill pleaded guilty to a charge of a telephonic threat to use fire to kill, injure or intimidate any individual, or unlawfully to damage or destroy a building.

“Answering the exercise of constitutional freedoms with threats of violence — especially threats that tap into a long and shameful history of racially-motivated violence against houses of worship —requires swift and certain justice," G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a statement.

Bareswill through his attorney argued for a lighter sentence, arguing it was an "an aberration in an otherwise law-abiding life" and that it was a heinous act for which he takes full responsibility.