Trial set for church arson

ALBANY -- The pastor accused in a plot to have his church burned is scheduled to go on trial Monday, court officials said.

The Rev. Joseph Howard is accused of hiring Curtis Lee Jones and Vincent Jackson to vandalize and burn Trinity Metropolitan Baptist Church, which he pastored.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Chris Cohilas said jury selection and the trial are set to begin Monday.

Firefighters responded to a report of a fire at the church on New Year's Eve 2007 and found the church partially burned.

Creditors were scheduled to auction the church property on Jan. 2 to pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that the church owed, Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine said following the fire. Oxendine predicted fallout from the arrest of a man who he said was well known throughout the community, but said that, after viewing the evidence, state arson investigators stood behind the work of the Albany Fire Department and the Albany Police Department.