Seattle Gay Club Arson Suspect Pleads Guilty
The man authorities believe set a popular Seattle gay club on fire on New Years Eve has pleaded guilty to a federal arson charge, LGBTQ Nation reports.
Musab Mohammed Masmari, 30, allegedly brought a canister of gasoline to Neigbours, a gay club in Seattle, on New Years Eve and just before midnight doused a set of stairs in the liquid before lighting it on fire.
More than 700 people were at the club when the fire broke out, but Neighbour’s staff quickly put out the flames and police say no one was hurt during the incident.
Both police and prosecutors say Masmari, who was spotted on surveillance footage during the night of the fire carrying what appears to be a can of gasoline, set the fire. When Masmari, who reportedly has a number of other ongoing cases unrelated to the arson case, was arrested in January, police said they found he was holding a one-way ticket to Turkey and two passports.
Masmari is being held in King Court Jail on a $1 million. He has been charged with arson and prosecutors say he is a flight risk. Prosecutors may also charge the suspect with a hate crime.
As LGBTQ Nation reports, Masmari was originally charged in state court but federal authorities took over the case, which means the suspect may serve more than twice the prison time if found guilty, according to U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan.
Under the plea agreement, Masmari’s attorneys and prosecutors agreed to a five-year prison sentence. The maximum penalty is 20 years, however.
Prosecutors have not discussed Masmari’s motive, but it was reported last month that he may have been provoked to set the club on fire after receiving explicit emails.
The emails were signed "your slave john," who reportedly said he would polish Masmari’s shoes with his tongue. He also wrote, "You can order me to do what you want me to do," and, "Can I have a chance?"
Seattle police say the person who sent the emails knew about Masmari’s views on gay people (Masmari admitted to his "distaste or homosexuals"), adding that the email is "evidence pertinent to hate crime."
The email was sent three days before he allegedly set the club on fire.
LGBTQ Nation reports Masmari’s motives will come into play during sentences, which is scheduled for July, Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg said.