Church Arson Suspects Allowed Bond; Choose Not to Leave - State Charges Threatened

There are new developments in the case of three college students charged with burning nine Alabama churches.

Over the objections of the U.S. Attorney's office, a federal magistrate approved granting bail for Ben Moseley, Russell DeBusk and Matt Cloyd  at $50,000 each.

The trio - along with their lawyers - were back in federal court Thursday and they appealed to the judge to allow them to be released to live with their families.

But it doesn't appear they're leaving the Shelby County jail where they've been held since authorities arrested them last Wednesday.

That's because state and local officials were prepared to file their own charges if any of the suspects tried to make bail and leave the jail. They say it's a pre-emptive strike to keep the young men behind bars.

It's clear that despite the fact two months have passed, people are still angry and hurt over the arsons.

"When you burn five churches, actually, nine churches, something had to be done," said Bibb County District Attorney Michael Jackson.

That's why Jackson and Attorney General Troy King asked Bibb County's Sheriff to get arrest warrants on state charges late Tuesday night.

"A lot of people are being very dismissive of this, saying these were just college pranks or just jokes. I don't view it that way," King said.

King is also concerned Matt Cloyd, Ben Moseley and Russell DeBusk could go on the run.

"They come from wealthy families, families that perhaps could afford for them to go someplace else," he said.

State guidelines recommend between two and twenty thousand dollars bond for each of the five arson counts the trio could face. But that's just a recommendation.

"We'd have a bond hearing," Jackson said.

If he had his way in front of a judge, freedom would cost a lot.

"We'd ask for several million dollars bond for each of these defendants," Jackson said.

King says the state has no intention of trying the men in state court before the federal case, but he was ready to force Cloyd, Moseley and Debusk into the state system if they tried to leave custody.

Those arrest warrants for Cloyd, Moseley and DeBusk are still active, and Jackson says he was ready to serve arson and burglary charges if the trio walked out of federal custody.

Why not pursue the state charges at the same time?

A federal rule says when defendants are convicted on the state level first, the federal government will drop its charges.

Would the trio ever face a state jury? It depends entirely on what happens in federal court. If state proseuctors aren't happy with that outcome, they can still file the charges and go to trial then.