And prosecutors only wanted 5. via 10 years in prison for Seattle gay club arsonist – seattlepi.com.
The Seattle man who set fire to a popular Capitol Hill club during a New Year’s celebration was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison - twice as long as the term requested by prosecutors.
Facing federal charges in the dangerous but non-injurious blaze, Musab Masmari admitted to starting a fire inside Neighbours Nightclub during the first minutes of 2014.
Masmari was caught on camera setting fire to a rear stairwell at Neighbours, a large, decades-old gay nightclub.
About 15 minutes after midnight, Masmari poured gasoline in a stairway to Neighbours’ balcony and lit the pool of fuel. The fire was quickly doused with a fire extinguisher; there were about 750 people in the club at the time.
Masmari, a California native also known as Musab Musmari, was arrested days later on his way to Sea-Tac Airport after buying a one-way ticket to Turkey.
In a letter to the court, Masmari, 31, explained he’d consumed a bottle of cheap whiskey in the hours before he set the fire. He claims not to remember setting it, though he recognized himself on a surveillance video.
“I do not believe that I am a bad man but when I get drunk I have done bad things,” Masmari said in a letter to the court. “I swear that it is my intent to never drink again.”
Prosecutors offered another motive for the arson – homophobia.
Writing the court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg said evidence suggests Masmari was motivated by an “intolerable hate.”
“One of Masmari’s close associates was interviewed by investigators and reported that Masmari confided in him that he ‘burned a gay club’ and that he did it because ‘what these people are doing is wrong,’” Greenberg said in court papers.
Greenberg said another person close to Masmari said he had a “general hostility towards homosexuality.”
Attorneys for Masmari Charles Swift and Jeffrey Cohen noted that prosecutors were unwilling to try to prove that hate motivated the arson.
The defense attorneys said the assertion is based on statements made by witnesses who’ve not been identified to the defense. The allegation, Swift and Cohen told the court, has never been proven to reasonable degree.
“Mr. Masmari does not agree that his criminal conduct was fueled by hate,” the defense attorneys said in court papers. “He does, however, agree with the government that his conduct was fueled by substance abuse, and in particular alcoholism.”
Prosecutors and the defense agreed to request a five-year prison term for Masmari. But U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez doubled the term to 10 years in Thursday’s sentencing hearing at the Seattle federal courthouse.
In a statement issued following the sentencing hearing, U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan said Masmari acted out of “ignorance and intolerance.”
“The Court sent a clear message: this conduct cannot be tolerated,” Durkan said.
Surveillance video showed Masmari entering a bar linked to Neighbours by an interior door carrying a one-gallon gas can in a bag. Masmari headed straight into Neighbours, set the fire and then fled through the bar. He was identified as a suspect after police released photos taken from the surveillance video.
The child of well-educated Libyan parents, Masmari was born in Los Angeles while his father was studying film there. He lived most of his life in Libya before coming to Washington in 2008.
As Gil Scott-Heron sang, “There’s people sho’ nuff in the bottle” but anyone in their right mind knows that’s not what caused this Libyan Muslim to firebomb a gay nightclub. The bottle may have only gave the coward the courage to do what Islam teaches.
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