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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 1 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 31
Musab Masmari gets 10 years for arson at Neighbours
Section One
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Musab Masmari gets 10 years for arson at Neighbours

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

'When I heard that Masmari was able to negotiate a plea that would allow him to only get five years prison time for what he attempted to do, I was sickened by that. I am still sickened by that. Please don't allow that to happen.'

That is what I asked U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez to consider at the sentencing of Musab Masmari, the man who set fire to Neighbours on December 31, this past New Year's Eve.

The U.S. District Court Judge then sentenced Masmari to 10 years in prison on a federal arson charge, shocking victims and Masmari's supporters alike.

In a statement of responsibility submitted before the sentencing, Masmari admitted to setting the fire at Neighbours nightclub, but said he had no recollection of it.

He declined to speak during his sentencing, referring to his statement.

The sentence Masmari received was double that recommended by both the U.S. Attorney's Office and the defense.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez disregarded Masmari's statement that he committed the crime during a drunken blackout, and, instead, invoked his discretion to impose the exceptional sentence.

In fact, Martinez said he didn't believe Masmari's blackout story because the crime was too well planned and Masmari tried to leave the country on a flight to Turkey.

The Seattle Times reports that the judge took particular note of comments made by me, a club employee and longtime Gay community advocate, who told the court that I was 'disgusted' with the five-year plea deal and considered the arson a 'blatant attack on our lives.'

Here's why I had a problem with the plea bargain:

o Masmari pleaded guilty to arson, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years.

o Because prosecutors could not prove in court that the arson was a hate crime, both the U.S. Attorney's Office and Masmari's attorneys agreed to the five-year sentence.

While the burden of proof rested on the shoulders of the prosecution, and I understand why they felt they had to go for just arson charges, the community wanted more. This was a hate crime. Even the judge said he thought it was.

Judge Martinez, however, was not bound by the plea deal and concluded 'common sense tells us exactly what was on Mr. Masmari's mind when he set that fire.'

'The community does need to be protected from the defendant in the future,' Martinez said.

Defense attorney Charles Swift said he may appeal the sentence, saying 'because of the political nature of this case, one always suspected this could happen.'

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