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White teen sentenced; planned to kill black churchgoers

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GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A white 17-year-old girl was sentenced Thursday to four years in juvenile detention for planning to stab north Georgia churchgoers to death because they were Black.

The girl pleaded guilty to attempted murder as part of a plea agreement and was sentenced in Gainesville, Georgia, news outlets reported.

The girl, who was 16 at the time of her arrest in 2019, sobbed while reading an apology, The Times of Gainesville reported. The Associated Press is not reporting her name because she was sentenced as a juvenile.

She will be on probation for 10 years and must stay at least 150 feet (about 45 meters) from any African Methodist Episcopal church during that time, the newspaper reported after Thursday’s hearing in Hall County Superior Court. She also must undergo counseling, the newspaper said.

Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish said in November 2019 that Gainesville High School students, school administrators and law officers had worked together to thwart a “potentially horrific incident.”

Students told administrators the 16-year-old had a notebook with detailed plans to kill worshippers at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Parrish said.

The church has a predominantly black congregation, Parrish said, adding investigators determined the church was targeted by the juvenile based on its racial demographic.

“She had written down how she wanted to do it, the best way to do it,” he said during a news conference in November 2019. “She had procured some butcher knives, kitchen knives, to do the attack with and had actually scouted out the location.”

Gainesville is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Atlanta. It’s a city of just over 40,000 people, about 17% of whom are African-American.

The South has a long history of Black churches being bombed, burned and shot up, and hate crimes continue.

White supremacist Dylann Roof, who was convicted of fatally shooting nine Black people in 2015 at an AME church in South Carolina, told FBI agents he was hoping to start a race war. He is on federal death row.

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