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3 charged in church arsons seek youthful offender status

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Three former college students who pleaded guilty to federal charges in a string of rural church arsons will ask a judge to treat them as youthful offenders as they answer state charges.

Lawyers for Matthew Cloyd, Russell Lee DeBusk and Benjamin Nathan Moseley have applied for youthful offender status, a move that could reduce their eventual punishment for the blazes, Bibb County District Attorney Michael Jackson said Tuesday.

Cloyd was 20 at the time of his arrest last year, and Moseley and DeBusk were both 19. If classified as youthful offenders, they would face a maximum of three years in jail and their court records would be sealed.

Jackson said he doesn't expect a state judge to grant the request, however.

"We plan to send them off to prison longer than three years," Jackson told The Birmingham News.

Cloyd's attorney, Tommy Spina, said seeking youthful offender status is a requirement under state rules, which allow youthful offender status for anyone under 21 at the time a crime was committed.

Bibb County Judge Marvin Wiggins scheduled a hearing for April 12. The hearing was set for three days after the three are scheduled to be in federal court for their sentencing in the blazes. Each faces a minimum of seven years in federal prison for the spree of fires.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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