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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 21 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 08
Musmari charged with first-degree arson
Section One
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Musmari charged with first-degree arson

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Musab Masmari, the suspect in the Neighbours NYE arson case, has changed lawyers and, as of press time for Seattle Gay News, has only been charged with first-degree arson.

At a February 18 arraignment hearing in the case, Musmari dropped his public defender and hired Jeff Cohen as private counsel.

Public defender Harold Palmer, Musmari's former lawyer, told media that Mr. Cohen was hired by Musmari's family.

At this time, Cohen has declined to answer questions from the media stating that he hadn't looked at the case yet.

During Musmari's arraignment, Palmer argued that Musmari can't possibly stay away from all potential Neighbours customers. Judge Patrick Oishi ordered that Musmari is prohibited from contact with Neighbours, Therapy Lounge, and any employees of either establishment, dropping the patron status from the court order.

Palmer told The Stranger, 'He is absolutely not guilty.'

Musab Musmari is charged with arson in the first degree for his alleged role in the Neighbours arson, and he entered a plea of not guilty.

A case setting date has been chosen, and Musmari will come back on March 5 to get his trial date.

There are more than a few questions that have arisen over Musmari's alleged role in the fire. One concern is about the fairness of his trial. Recently, court documents show unnamed people coming forward to accuse Musmari of terrorist plots and saying that he wanted to 'exterminate homosexuals.'

According to KIRO 7 and court documents connected to a warrant affidavit, Musmari first met the informant at Fatima's Cafe near the Masjid at Taqwa Mosque on Seattle's East Union Street, shortly after the fire at Neighbours.

The informant contacted the FBI soon after meeting Musmari because he was 'concerned' that Musmari 'may be planning some terrorist activity' because he spoke of 'something he's planning.' The informant told investigators that Musmari told him 'he had obtained a rifle.'

The unidentified informant also said that, in the numerous conversations after their first meeting, Musmari often expressed 'distaste for homosexual people,' and that Musmari 'opined that homosexuals should be exterminated.'

Palmer said, 'I'm concerned that there are so many unnamed witnesses allowed to present speculation as fact in the court documents.' He went on to say he would not offer any more comments about the rest of the case.

Dan Donohue, from the prosecutor's office, has said, 'We are confident we have enough evidence to move forward.'

The FBI also said its investigators were looking for evidence of a hate crime in the case.

Musmari was arrested earlier this month while he was reportedly on the way to the airport with a one-way ticket to Turkey. According to police, someone poured gasoline on the stairs at Neighbours and set them on fire with approximately 750 people inside. The fire was quickly put out, and no one was hurt.

The subsequent investigation, including surveillance video, led police to Musmari. He is being held on $1 million bail.

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