US: Judge doubles recommended sentence for Seattle gay club arsonist

Ashley Chhibber August 1, 2014
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An arsonist who pleaded guilty to an arson attack on a Seattle gay nightclub has been handed a ten-year prison sentence – double the length of the sentence requested by the prosecution.

The attack on Neighbours nightclub in Seattle took place in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2014, when the club was filled with an estimated 750 revellers. Fortunately, nobody was injured.

Police arrested Musab Masmari in February after he was identified from CCTV footage, and he pleaded guilty to a federal arson charge in May.

Both federal prosecutors and defence attorneys agreed, under the plea agreement, to recommend a five-year prison sentence. U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez doubled this during Thursday’s sentencing.

Masmari, 31, blamed his actions on alcohol, and said in a letter to the court: “I do not believe that I am a bad man but when I get drunk I have done bad things. I swear that it is my intent to never drink again.”

Although homophobia was suggested as a motive for arson, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg writing to court that associates of Masmari suggested he had a “general hostility towards homosexuality”, the prosecution did not attempt to prove it.

Defense attorneys Charles Swift and Jeffrey Cohen sais: “Mr Masmari does not agree that his criminal conduct was fuelled by hate. He does, however, agree with the government that his conduct was fuelled by substance abuse, and in particular alcoholism.”

Following the sentencing, Jenny Durkhan, U.S. Attorney for Western Washington, attributed Masmari’s actions to “ignorance and intolerance” and added: “The Court sent a clear message: this conduct cannot be tolerated.”

A recent survey named Seattle the most gay-friendly city in the US, placing just ahead of San Francisco in second.

Related topics: arson, gay club, neighbours, prison, seattle, US

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