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Mass. man gets 4 1/2 years for Obama-inspired fire

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) – The last of three Massachusetts men charged in the burning of a predominantly black church to protest President Barack Obama’s election has been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in federal prison.

Federal prosecutors say a federal judge on Wednesday also ordered Thomas Gleason to pay $1.7 million in restitution. The 24-year-old pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy against civil rights and other charges for what prosecutors called a racially motivated arson.

Prosecutors said Gleason and two friends burned down the Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield on Nov. 5, 2008, hours after Obama was elected as the nation’s first black president.

The church was under construction at the time and no one was inside.

Michael Jacques was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison. Benjamin Haskell received a nine-year sentence. All three men are white.

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