Neighbours New Year’s attack suspect Musmari charged with arson

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 2.31.35 PMThe King County Prosecutor has charged Musab Musmari with one count of arson in the first degree in the New Year’s attack inside Capitol Hill’s Neighbours nightclub:

King County Prosecutors have filed one count of Arson First Degree against Musab Musmari for attempting to set a fire in the Neighbors Nightclub on Broadway Avenue on New Year’s Eve. Prosecutors have asked for 1 million bail for Musmari based on his apparent attempt to leave the jurisdiction shortly after photos and video surveillance showed him as a possible suspect. He also was in possession of two different passports. His arraignment is set for 2/19 at 8:30am in Courtroom 1201 of the King County Courthouse.

Musmari at his January sentencing hearing for a 2013 assault (Image: CHS)

Musmari at his January sentencing hearing for a 2013 assault. Charged Wednesday, the defendant has waived his right to appear thus far at hearings in the arson case.  (Image: CHS)

CHS reported on the most recent court proceedings here as a judge set Musmari’s bail at $1 million and it was revealed the suspect was arrested after authorities learned he was in possession of a one-way airline ticket to Turkey. The FBI also said its investigators were looking for evidence of a hate crime in the case.

According to court documents, Musmari purchased the airline ticket after being alerted to media coverage of the incident:

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Police say investigators compared a jail booking photo of Musmari with images taken from Neighbours surveillance video the night of the arson:Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 2.40.57 PM

Earlier, CHS documented Musmari’s increased brushes with the law in the past year on Capitol Hill including assaults and protection order violations. In a recent conviction and sentence that he is appealing, Musmari was required to undergo a mental health evaluation.

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. The FBI and Seattle Police have said “numerous” tips were received from the public in the case.

Police say one witness who came forward talked with Musmari about the situation and about his prospects for leaving the country. Police do not document how they learned Musmari had contacted a travel agent.Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 2.44.33 PM

On Saturday when Musmari was arrested outside his Bellevue home, police say they found he had packed many of his possessions for the trip:

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The full charging document is below.

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43 thoughts on “Neighbours New Year’s attack suspect Musmari charged with arson

  1. Still no mention of how SPD staff magically discovered that Musmari booked a flight. It’s as if they or someone they know has the ability to monitor anyone’s phone calls, no warrant required. Great in this case, totalitarian-nightmarish in millions of others.

    • Actually, since the police were talking with a person who Musab was talking to about leaving the country, they could have found out that way. Or, if he was a person of interest, it’s not too hard to submit a query to airlines to see whether someone has purchased a ticket leaving the country. Such requests are commonplace.

      • Mr. Hays at SPD was very specific about the other details, particularly those involving the witness. From page five: “A witness whose identity and contact information are fully known to law enforcement discussed the Neighbors arson with Masmari, and revealed those conversations to investigators. When the witness asked Masmari about the news media and released images from the surveillance video, Masmari first said that he didn’t know what the witness was talking about. He then said that the witness was the second person to ask him about the arson, and said that he didn’t want to make trouble for himself. He indicated concern about the media coverage.”

        But then the very next paragraph: “The next day, Masmari called a travel agent to book a one way airline ticket to Turkey, to leave from SeaTac in two days.” Hays probably figured it wasn’t important to mention how SPD learned of this, right?

        The next paragraph goes on to describe more even detail about the Masmari’s and the witness’ interaction, but never once claims that the witness was told of Masmari’s plans to leave the country, much less that he had purchased a ticket via a travel agent—only that they talked about “what might happen if he tried to leave the country.” Hays probably just left out the part about Masmari telling the witness he had phoned a travel agent, right?


        I suspect as soon as SPD caught wind of the fact that people thought this guy they already knew of might be the arsonist, they went to their federal contacts at the joint terrorism task force, pulled his unlawfully-obtained mobile phone records, confirmed that had been in Neighbors at the time of the crime, and had some analyst at NSA begin watching his every digital move in real time, no judicial overview involved. The rest of the time between then and the arrest was probably spent digging up information they could use to avoid revealing their ability to tap into the feds’ unconstitutional trove. They probably have their own “taint team” like DEA’s to hide the parallel construction from the public.

        Maybe this is one of those investigative methods that City Council found too sensitive for public discussion but not qualified for reservation to executive session when Councilmember Bruce Harrel said, “A lot of what [our peace officers] do relative to criminal investigations, it’s a little– It’s sensitive information how they go about establishing probable cause, how often they conduct these criminal investigations, where they do it. And this is not the kind of conversation that you have in executive session ’cause it doesn’t fall under one of the exemptions.

      • What? Dude, this is like first day basic police investigation stuff. The account is written in chronological order, but that doesn’t mean they found it out in chronological order. Their witness spoke to Musab the day after he had bought the tickets through the agency, and Musab asked about leaving the country. The witness told police Musab had talked about leaving the country.

        What would you do if you were the police and your person of interest said they were thinking about leaving the country? See if there were any tickets booked in his name, that’s a massively obvious and easy thing to do. Whatever Air gets back to them (it may even be an automated service if there’s a warrant or it is otherwise justified) and says yeah, we have a Musab Musmari who bought a one-way to Turkey on Saturday via So and So Travel Agency on 19th. Police pulled his license and put out an APB, or sat on his house until he tried to roll.

        The only time they might have needed federal help is in case they might have to detain him at the airport or in a plane. And they probably had to run his name down a list of known terrorists.

        Really, this is elementary policework, no conspiracy theory or NSA needed.

      • Dude, you’re totally right. Seattle Police staff have earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to operating in a constitutional manner, Harrel’s revelation meant nothing, the joint terrorism task force they got on the case surely have no route into NSA’s total information awareness database, and the public records about parallel construction and taint teams couldn’t possibly apply here.

        Besides that, who gives a rat’s ass how they turned up the information, constitutional or not, as long as they bagged this motherfucker.

      • Sorry man, but your understandable alarm and outrage (which I share) at the NSA and other agencies’ unconstitutional systematic surveillance programs is not material here. This is really, REALLY basic everyday police work, one officer taking simple statements and getting on the phone for an hour.

      • Yeah, you’re totally right, man. I bet they just called every travel agency in town, and Travelocity and all the airlines and whatnot, and got some customer service rep to give up some personal information about a client. That, or they convinced a judge that searching travel records would turn up evidence of arson and went to every one of those same agents with a warrant. I mean, they could have just picked him up for questioning as soon as they had good information that he was the culprit, or after their witness said he was thinking about leaving, but it makes more sense to call around and see if he really meant it about skipping town before stationing a cop in a car outside his house to keep an eye on him in case he left.

        They probably left just left those details—unlike the parts about the one other person who provided information directly related to what they were able to do—out of the report since everybody would assume the right thing about what happened, anyway. There’s really need for precision with this stuff. It’s not like their investigative methods ever affect the outcome of a case or whatever. Musabi al Gasolini is toast and it doesn’t matter whether our boys in blue explain how they put it all together or not.

    • I agree with dc on this one. There is no reason to assume that any federal agency was involved in this arrest. Much more likely is this: the SPD had the suspect under physical surveillance, they obtained a warrant to search his car (as reported in The Seattle Times), and when he left his home to go to the airport they found evidence in his car (or on his person) that he possessed a one-way ticket to Turkey. Simple as that. No need for conspiracy theories and accusations of unlawful behavior.

      • DC is the only person talking about conspiracies. That NSA act unlawfully has been determined by multiple judges and by the group President Obama put together to look into it. It is possible but unlikely that the joint terrorism task force SPD enlisted for support in this investigation does not include federal staff.

        You can weave some tale of expert gumshoe work, but it seems a whole lot more likely that they simply labeled this terrorism, got with the JTTF, and had somebody dig into NSA’s data to find out where the suspect was at the time of the crime, and while they were in there, just went ahead and watched everything else he wrote or said electronically before and after the crime.

        What would prevent SPD from tapping this enticing bag of illegally-obtained-by-NSA data?

      • “What would prevent SPD from tapping this enticing bag of illegally-obtained-by-NSA data?”
        Maybe that fact that the NSA doesn’t share anything it gathers with other federal agencies (let alone the SPD) might be one reason.

        Phil, the NSA stuff is completely unrelated to methods and tools used in this case. Each Federal agency has reinvented the wheel a dozen times over already. Homeland Security has more toys and authority to use them as well as interacts with local police forces.

      • NSA do share information they collect with other federal agencies, including but probably not limited to DEA and IRS, those agencies teach others how to hide the fact that the information came from them, and I’ve already linked to multiple news reports and documents obtained via FOIA from DEA about their hiding of parallel construction in this thread.

      • Phil, I don’t think anyone is arguing the Government tools being used on every US citizen in mass is alarming, but why are you tying it to this one case? Why are you accusing the SPD of wrongdoing?

      • Why would an investigation of arson committed a month ago warrant the ongoing monitoring of the travel plans and/or financial transactions of someone? We don’t allow our police to go trolling through all of someone’s business simply because they suspect he did something wrong in the past. A warrant in this case would be granted to perform otherwise-unconstitutional searches for evidence of arson.

      • ERF asked, “Why are you accusing the SPD of wrongdoing?”

        If you think that what I theorized happened would constitute wrongdoing on the part of SPD staff, then I sincerely hope you’ll join me in watching this case very closely, and in encouraging the press to ask the police department how they came across the information about the suspect’s airline ticket purchase from a travel agent.

        I don’t know if it would be wrongdoing or not, but I do not want our police to have the ability to 1) search through the information NSA collects about all of us without a search warrant that specifically allows it, or 2) to arrange with intelligence analysts to monitor someone in real-time for new records collected by NSA. If they are doing this, we should know about it. This is a very high-profile case that happened blocks from where I live and probably involved people I know. I am watching closely, and part of what the police are reporting is very fishy.

      • A month ago? Phil that is not a long time ago. In fact the SPD asked for help about the 13th, so it’s less time than that for them to identify him and get a blanket warrant. It’s been since about the 25th. They found out about the flight via a couple of computer programs that monitor and report a purchase of a named suspect. The systems have been around for over a decade. This is not NSA stuff in this case.

      • Phil, Occam is spinning in his grave. The man was a suspect, after tips from the public. The police, as they do with suspects, put him under surveillance. He tried to jet, they busted him. This is not an uncommon series of events.

        I agree with you about the larger issues, but I have a very hard time seeing them connected here without my tin foil hat on.

      • Most likely, the warrant allowed his bank and credit cards to be reviewed and MONITORED. He made a purchase at a travel agency, a program that was written years ago to monitor for specific purchases sent out an alert to someone that cared and the police on the case were informed.

      • ERF wrote, “A month ago? Phil that is not a long time ago.”

        I agree. SPD were not investigating an ongoing crime, but one that happened in the past.

        “it’s less time than that for them to identify him and get a blanket warrant.”

        I’m not familiar with a “blanket warrant,” so I looked it up. Cornell Law references this definition by Nolo: “Blanket Search Warrant:
        An unconstitutionally broad authorization from a judge that allows the police to search multiple areas for evidence without specifying exactly what they are looking for.”
        Is that what you think SPD used?

        “They found out about the flight via a couple of computer programs that monitor and report a purchase of a named suspect.”

        Please cite the source of your claim.

      • Regarding the blanket warrant; I was using the term generically since I don’t know specifically what is in today’s boilerplate language for search warrants. I’m sure the warrant included the financial transaction monitoring.
        Phil, I’ll go lookup some references for you later, but it’s all the 30 year old war on drugs stuff. Like banks have to report ANY transaction over a set amount ($3000 if I remember correctly) No warrant, it just gets reported to the federal government. The technologies have changed over the years, but the programs are all still in place.

      • They are kind of being coy with only mentioning the “transaction history”, real time authorizations are also monitored and reported. Makes one think twice about using a card with VISA or MasterCard logo.

        “Law enforcement. Remember that TV crime show where police tracked a missing person and a killer using credit card transaction data? Law enforcement agencies can subpoena records from both the credit card issuer and the merchant to find out the time, date and place of a credit card purchase — information that may be helpful in determining the last known location of a crime victim or suspect. The Department of Homeland Security also tracks terrorist activity by monitoring certain purchases.”

      • ERF, the sort of warrant you keep describing is unconsittutional. If our police engaged in such unlawful activity, we should know about it, no matter how pleased we are with the outcome.

        If this was designated as terrorist activity, meaning the infliction of terror upon a population in an effort to effect political change (think bombing civilians with flying robots, not a spider causing terror in an arachnaphobe), we should know about it, no matter how pleased we are with the outcome.

      • Phil,
        I’m sorry I’m not making myself clear. There is standard language in legal documents. You just stick a name in there and add dates, times, and such. (Look at pro se legal kits sold at office max for example). The warrant is legal. Signed by a judge.
        The defense attorney will review it for errors and all other evidence and try and make a case that evidence should not be included trial based on any problems with how it was gathered. (Like the time expired for monitoring and they didn’t get an extension from the judge). In this one case I think you’re barking up the wrong tree.

      • Here is a 2011 Forbes article that describes the current monitoring program the DOJ says is legal;

        “The Feds don’t have to have a warrant, in fact the DOJ document released to Soghoian stresses that the preferred way to execute a hotwatch is to bypass the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and instead use a subpoena to order credit card issuers and other retailers to provide detailed real time information about the financial moves of the person being watched. A judge then orders a non-disclosure order, which insures that the target will never know they’re being watched.

    • Not at all. I’m glad they were able to do so. But the ends don’t always justify the means. The Bill of Rights exists for good reason. Without our Fourth Amendment protection against unwarranted search and seizure, police would often have an easier time bringing criminals to justice. But Americans fought a revolutionary war to break free of such tyranny.

      • Have you considered the fact that SPD may have had a probable cause warrant, based on the fact that the man was a known felon, and the public was apparently tipping them off to his involvement with the arson?

        The cops aren’t always the bad guys, they did a good job here.

      • I have, indeed, considered the idea that SPD staff convinced a judge that searching airline records would be likely to turn up evidence of arson and received warrant to do so. I find that unlikely.

      • Where does this idea come from that the airline records need to contain evidence of arson? Why would not the suspicion of arson, the video resembling him, and tips from many members of the public not be enough basis for a search warrant of his phone calls and banking transactions? Friends knew he was a native of Libya and it’s reasonable to speculate someone with the ability to flee and a place to go might try it. The airline records don’t need to prove arson, just the intention of a suspect to flee the country. WTF is wrong with a warrant in that situation? And what makes you think that would be so unlikely by SPD? How much more basic, obvious, and reasonable could it get?

      • Jim asked, “Where does this idea come from that the airline records need to contain evidence of arson?”

        From the fact that their suspicion that he created arson is what they were investigating. How would suspicion that someone committed arson justify a search for unrelated materials or information? Cops are not supposed to be able to just say, “We’re interested in this guy,” and be granted authority to dig through anything of his that they want. They’re supposed to describe specifically what they want to search for. It sounds like you think they’re likely to have been granted an unconstitutional blanket warrant.

      • Although it is fortunate that he did not do so, he had every right to leave the country until he was detained by police. Within a couple days, after that, a judge ordered him to stick around. Before all that, him booking a flight would have been neither evidence of having committed arson nor evidence that he was planning to commit another crime.

        If police are concerned about someone leaving but do not have the authority to prevent him from leaving, the best they can do is watch him and follow him around. If they have the authority to detain him, then whether he arranges for future travel is irrelevant, because if they need to restrict his movement, they will just do so.

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  3. It’s just so typical that the serious aspect of this case (preventing the deaths of potentially DOZENS or HUNDREDS of INNOCENT PEOPLE) gets lost in the noise of lefty tin-foil hat gobbeldy-guck.

    How’s about paying attention to what’s important for once? According to other reports, Musmari was a violent, anti-social @sswipe who attacked women and police officers, yet was continually ignored or let off the hook by hapless neighbors and clueless juries. Musmari even threatened a witness in one case, but since we “hate the man” around here so much, that also seems to be an acceptable practise according to your average Seattle juror.

    I disagree with conservatives who want to lock everybody up for any possible transgression, but I remain similarly disgusted by “live and let live” passive Seattleites who literally won’t lift a finger until violent creeps like this guy actually maim or KILL somebody (or hundreds of people, in this case).

    I would also contend that Stranger-reading, socially unconscious hipster lefties won’t even *start* to realize they are in a collective sheep-like state until it’s a friend or family member who is assaulted or killed by psychos like Musmari. But, of course, those horrible things always happen to OTHER people… so the mindless sheep can keep living the life of lazy indifference.

    In most healthy towns or cities, sociopaths are ostracized and kept in line by people who care about the collective health of their community. On the left coast, we tend to look the other way, encouraging the “colorful” psycho-nuts to extend their inevitable downward spiral for as long as possible, inflicting maximum destruction along the way.

    Next time you see some punk, creep or sociopath harrassing an innocent person -get off your “tolerant” lazy @ss and DO something about it; or make sure the cops do something about it. There are a lot of people who deserve to be in jail for long periods of time.

    Musab Musmari was tolerated for way to long, and he almost killed a bunch of people as a result.

  4. I sat on the jury last Fall when this guy was convicted of his last crime which was the assault on Broadway outside of the Deluxe Bar and Grill. During the trial it became obvious he was guilty. Plus, it was obvious he has anger/rage issues. He moved here from Libya a couple of years ago into the heart of Capitol Hill—– a major cultural change. Glad the police caught him again and no one was hurt. He seems to have ill-will for anyone and everyone not like him.

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    • If you really want him to be accused of something likely to land a serious punishment, regardless of whether he actually committed the crime, why not push for something involving drugs? He wouldn’t get the death penalty, but it would be treated more seriously than most any violent crime would.

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  8. Phil is quite the wacko bird and sounds like he’s giving this terrorist a run for his money as far as being mentally-unbalanced.

    But the important thing here is that this douchbag was completely undercharged. The charge should have been attempted murder of all the people that were in that club at the time he set the fire.

    “First degree arson” sounds like this will result in another slap on the wrist when this guy should be in jail for life.

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