Suspects in church fire face new charges

Stephen James Johnson

From the Associated Press.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Two of the men charged with setting a Springfield church fire after President Barack Obama‘s election have pleaded not guilty to state charges in a 2003 house fire.

Twenty-two-year-old Benjamin Haskell and 24-year-old Michael Jacques of Springfield were arraigned Tuesday on charges they burned a city home on Christmas Eve, 2003. Haskell also pleaded not guilty to several drug charges.

The two and 21-year-old Thomas Gleason Jr., of Springfield, have pleaded not guilty to federal charges they burned the Macedonia Church of God in Christ on Nov. 5 last year. Federal prosecutors say the men were angered about Obama becoming the first black president.

A state judge Tuesday released Haskell and Jacques under similar conditions, including electronic monitoring, that were issued by the judge in their federal case.