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Last updated on Wednesday, April 4, 2012
(NASHVILLE) - Judge Judith Stewart handed down a seven-year sentence that included more than three years on work release from the Brown County Jail, followed by three-and-a-half years on probation for his conviction of Class B felony arson.
Kevin Lilly, of the Brown County Democrat, reported that with his suit jacket sleeves, Rider, 19, of Columbus wiped tears from his face after the judge explained to him that he would be incarcerated for about 20 months, if he behaved himself and earned credit for good behavior.
Rider entered the hearing facing up to eight years in prison. The executed portion on the charge that carries a 20-year maximum had been capped by a plea deal.
Prosecutor Jim Oliver argued for Rider to receive between six and eight years executed.
He said to suspend too much of the sentence would diminish the seriousness of the crime.
"The crime had a huge impact on the community," Oliver said.
The church, which was built in 1892, was listed on National Register of Historic Places. As a result of Rider's act to torch the church, the prosecutor pointed out the structure no longer exists.
"He is the one who lit the fire, the one who caused this loss," Oliver said.
Rider did not act alone on July 14, 2010. The 17-year-old was among eight teenagers who traveled to Brown County while under the influence of the hallucinogenic drug, LSD. Their intent, as revealed through court documents and testimony, was to vandalize and burn down the church because the group thought the place to be satanic.
At sentencing, Rider's attorney, Andrew Szakaly, noted that since bonding out of jail, his client has stayed out of trouble and maintained employment.
Szakaly argued that an extended prison term would be a mockery of a system based on rehabilitation.
Stewart said she struggled to find the appropriate punishment for the crime. The arson significantly impacted a congregation and a community. On the other hand, Rider is young and has shown the ability to be a productive, law-abiding member of society, she said.
"This is not an easy sentencing for the court," Stewart said.
The judge acknowledged that some people may find the sentence too lenient, but she did not feel prison would do Rider or the community any good.
Rider is the last of the defendants to be sentenced. He received the lengthiest punishment.
As part of probation, Rider must write an apology letter to New Beginnings Church, formerly known as Grandview Apostolic Church, and Van Buren Township. He also must pay a share of the $1480,000 restitution to the township.
Oliver noted that the church had received a $10,000 portion of the restitution through the other defendants.
The judge gave Rider a week to get his affairs in order. He is to report to jail at noon Monday, April 9.
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