Attorneys for convicted Neighbours arsonist Musab Masmari have filed an appeal of the 10-year sentence in the case.
“Because of the political nature of this case, one always suspected this could happen,” defense attorney Charles Swift said after the July decision by Judge Ricardo S. Martinez to double the five years both sides in the case had agreed to. Prosecutors told CHS at the time that they believed Masmari had an anti-gay bias but they asked the judge to not raise the sentence based on hate crime motivations because it would open the possibility of appeals.
The Seattle Weekly broke the news on the appeal and reported more on attorney Charles Swift’s involvement in the case:
As with Hamdan’s case, which went to the U.S. Supreme Court, Masmari’s sentence was political, Swift thinks. Shortly after the term was handed down by U.S. Judge Ricardo Martinez on July 31 – doubling the five-year sentence that prosecutors and Masmari had agreed to in a plea bargain – Swift told reporters he was worried this could happen “because of the political nature of this case.” The next day, he gave notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, challenging the sentence. He is set to file his appellate brief by Halloween.
Masmari, a former Capitol Hill resident, pleaded guilty to setting a New Year’s Eve fire inside a crowded Neighbours nightclub. The arsonist blamed his actions on drinking too much alcohol before setting the fire. In the statement Masmari said he drank an entire “cheap bottle of whiskey” on New Year’s Eve and said he did not remember what happened afterwards. “This defendant violated people’s right to gather safely: he put more than 700 lives at risk when he purposely started a fire at a crowded nightclub on New Year’s Eve,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan in a written statement in May.