GAINESVILLE, Ga. (CNN) — A 17-year-old Gainesville girl accused of plotting to attack a predominantly Black church in 2019, apologized in court on Thursday before being sentenced to four years in a juvenile facility and probation.
The teen was arrested last November after her plan to attack the historically Black church with knives was foiled, according to police. Her plot resembled the one carried out by Dylann Roof at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina five years ago.
“I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done,” the teen said Thursday to the members of the church during an emotional statement in court. She pleaded guilty to one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony.
As part of a plea agreement, the teen will be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice until she turns 21 and face 10 years of probation for her plans to attack parishioners at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Gainesville.
Started more than a century ago, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church has more than 40 members, congregants have said.
The Georgia teen will get court-ordered counseling in addition to her detention time and probation. Her sentence also mandates an apology letter to the church.
Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, the presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the AME Church covering Georgia, said in a statement, “while we are angered and frustrated by this incident, we do not hold hostility against this defendant. While she apparently hates or hated us, we do not hate her, and do not wish to nullify her future, and do not give up on her.”
The plot unraveled after a student at Gainesville High School overheard the teenager talking about the threat and alerted the principal, who in turn notified a school resource officer, Hall County Assistant District Attorney Julia Greene said.
The student had a notebook in which she wrote about hurting people at a Black church, Greene said. In her backpack, the teen had two T-shirts, one of which said, “Free Dylann Storm Roof,” and had swastikas drawn on the sleeves. “I do believe myself to be a white supremacist” was written on the other side of one of the shirts, Greene added.
Roof murdered nine people with a pistol during Bible study at an AME church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. He was convicted on federal and state charges. In January he appealed his federal conviction and his death sentence.
In the Georgia plot, the girl had two knives and had written down when she thought the church would be having Bible study, Greene said.
She went to the church on successive Wednesdays in November, but no one was at the church, Greene told the court. Two days after the second visit, the other student learned of her plan, the assistant DA added.
The girl told the school resource officer she had every intention to carry out the plot, Green said.
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