[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]
The man who tried to kill a crowd
of 750 people packed inside a popular Seattle gay bar by setting it
afire on New Year’s Eve has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of arson.
Despite some evidence that he was motivated by hatred of LGBT people,
Musab Mohammad Masmari will not face federal hate crime charges.
The Seattle Times
reports that Masmari, a 30-year-old American-born man of Libyan
extraction and upbringing, reached an agreement with prosecutors on
Friday to plead guilty to arson. Though prosecutors had substantial reason
to believe it was an anti-LGBT bias crime, he will not face federal
hate-crime charges. Prosecutors said that Masmari’s motives will be
addressed by the judge during the sentencing phase, which comes next
The plea agreement specifies that prosecutors will only seek a five-year prison sentence for the crime. However, prosecutors told KOMO-TV that the judge was free to ignore their recommendations and sentence Masmari to a prison term ranging up to 20 years.
Masmari got into Neighbours, a popular Capitol Hill bar, last New
Year’s Eve with a canister of gasoline hidden inside another container,
making it past security by entering through an adjoining tavern. He then
tried to set a stairwell leading up to the rear entrance afire by
dousing it with the gas, lighting it and fleeing. Alert action by bar
patrons managed to douse the flames before they could spread.
Video surveillance cameras inside the bar captured Masmari’s image as
he walked through with the container, and his neighbors and
acquaintances identified him to detectives in short order. After Masmari
was brought in for questioning and released, he apparently attempted to flee the country by buying a plane ticket to Turkey. But he was arrested at Sea-Tac Airport and subsequently charged with arson.
that a friend of Masmari told FBI agents that Masmari had a “deep
distaste for homosexual people” and thought “homosexuals should be
exterminated,” despite living for several years at an apartment in
Capitol Hill, Seattle’s best-known gay neighborhood. The informant told
the agents he had met Masmari at a café near a mosque both attended and
that Masmari had laid out his hatred of LGBT people over the course of
their conversation. He said Masmari told him he had obtained a rifle,
and added that he feared Masmari might have been planning other
Neighbours has a history of being targeted by hate-crime perpetrators. In 1990, several members of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations
organization from Hayden Lake in northern Idaho were arrested and
charged with plotting to kill dozens, if not hundreds, of Neighbours
patrons. The attackers had traveled to Seattle intent on reigniting a
1983-84 campaign of domestic terrorism carried out by an Aryan
Nations-derived group, The Order, against their perceived enemies: Jews,
African Americans, and LGBT people. They were thwarted by the presence
of an informant and arrested in Seattle before they could carry out the