A King County judge ruled Monday afternoon that there is probable cause to continue jailing the man arrested this weekend in connection with the arson fire inside a packed Neighbours nightclub on New Year’s Eve.
The hearing for Musab Mohamed Musmari, 30, comes after he was booked into King County Jail on Saturday for investigation of arson. He remains in jail and is held without bail. He has not yet been charged with the crime. Seattle police arrested the suspect Saturday when investigators say he was on his way to the airport.
According to police, Musmari had a one-way ticket to Turkey and was carrying both his Libyan and United State passports at the time of his arrest outside his home Saturday. Police say “numerous” people called in to identify Musmari as the man seen in images from surveillance video recorded at the club the night of the attack.
A bond hearing was delayed until Tuesday to arrange for an interpreter in the case. County prosecutors will weigh available evidence in determining whether they will charge Musmari and what those charges will be.The courtroom was filled with media there to cover the start of court proceedings in the case. A man who identified himself as a friend of Musmari’s who met him recently when renting an apartment from him in Bellevue was swarmed by reporters and said he attended the session to show support for a man he didn’t have “any reason to believe” was involved in the crime.
Following the January 1st attack, detectives from SPD’s Arson/Bomb Squad, and members of a Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated the case, according to police officials. Musmari’s arrest came after the month-long investigation that had frustrated some police tipsters who suspected Musmari might be the man shown in security footage. Last month detectives released surveillance images of a man seen acting unusually inside the club as the flames broke out. SPD said the man was a person of interest in the investigation, but would not confirm his identity.
UPDATE: The FBI issued a statement on the arrest and their part in the ongoing investigation:
On Saturday, February 1, 2014, the Seattle Police Department, working jointly with the FBI and other members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), arrested a subject in their investigation of the January 1, 2014 arson at Neighbours Nightclub in Capitol Hill.
The FBI offered its assistance to SPD in order to assess the possibility of a federal hate crime. The FBI participated in initial interviews with the subject on Saturday and continues to investigate the incident.
Police arrested the 30-year-old subject near Seattle as he was enroute to the airport.
The FBI joins SPD and its JTTF partners in appreciating the public’s assistance with the investigation. We consider all tips seriously and have brought many criminals to justice as a result of information provided by a concerned citizen.
CHS spoke with Broadway business owners and past victims of run-ins with Musmari who said they had contacted police after seeing the Neighbours images. Musmari, who also has a record under the last name Masmari, has a string of assaults and no contact violations on Capitol Hill. While he has a record of Seattle assaults and arrests that increased in frequency starting last spring, there is nothing in his criminal record at the level of the attack on the longtime gay dance club. Despite the club’s long history in gay culture, police and city officials have been careful not to call the arson attempt a hate crime or an act of terrorism.
CHS reported on a DUI incident last spring in the 600 block of Harvard Ave E involving Musmari. Prior to the arrest, Musmari worked as a delivery driver with a Capitol Hill pizza shop.
In July, a Seattle woman filed for a protection order against Musmari for a series of harassing incidents including following the her and friends to Volunteer Park:
Another Musmari victim tells CHS the 30-year-old hit him with a pool cue in a July assault. Musmari was arrested and eventually found guilty. He has had multiple arrests in the meantime for violating court orders. In November, he pleaded not guilty to two counts of violating a civil protection order.
Musmari has been a resident living near Broadway and Roy, but at the recent sentencing hearing he said he had since moved to the Eastside. His Facebook profile lists Benghazi, Libya as his hometown. He was listed as living in Lynnwood in early 2009. CHS learned Musmari has had a U.S. passport since at least 2010.
Musmari is also scheduled to appear in Seattle Municipal Court on Tuesday for a hearing regarding his court-ordered mental health evaluation stemming from his recent conviction and sentence for an assault on Capitol Hill last summer. His lawyer has filed an appeal of the decision.