Man gets 5 years for defacing churches

A Lafayette man was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison for defacing two churches with predominantly black congregations in an effort to frame his white ex-girlfriend.

Brian Toriano Crimiel, 35, pleaded guilty last year to federal charges of damage to religious property and making a false statement to a federal agent.

U.S. District Judge Richard Haik sentenced him Wednesday to five years in federal prison on the false statement charge and one year on the damage to religious property charge, to be served concurrently.

The five-year sentence was twice the maximum 30-month-term recommended under federal sentencing guidelines.

“This court feels this is a very serious offense,” Haik told Crimiel. “... It could have been a very serious problem for race relations in this community.”

Crimiel admitted to spray-painting racial slurs on buildings at St. James Baptist Church on Plum Street and Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on 12th Street in February 2011, according to court filings from prosecutors.

The man also poured gasoline on bushes near the front door of St. James Baptist Church with a threat that the church would burn, according to the court filings.

Prosecutors said Crimiel left undisclosed evidence at the scene in an effort to lead investigators to his ex-girlfriend.

“I would like to apologize to everyone involved, sir,” Crimiel told Haik.

When Haik asked prosecutor James McManus if he had any comment he wished to make before the sentence was handed down, McManus replied, “Only to point out that this is an extremely bizarre case” and that Crimiel’s actions “incited fear” in the community.

Haik also ordered Crimiel to pay $3,972 in restitution for damage to the two churches.