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Neighbours arson case finally drew to close in 2015

Two years ago this New Year’s Eve, Capitol Hill nearly suffered a horrific tragedy. More than 700 people were partying to ring in 2014 when an arsonist set Broadway’s iconic gay dance club on fire. No one was seriously injured inside Neighbours that night thanks to fast acting staff and patrons who were able to douse the flames before they spread to the packed dance floor.

As the crime drifts into the neighborhood’s history as a sad reminder of the dangers of hate and mental illness, the case against the troubled former Capitol Hill resident who tried to burn the club down didn’t end until 2015.

Musab Masmari admitted to setting the New Year’s Eve fire inside the crowded club, blaming his actions on drinking too much alcohol before setting the fire. Police and FBI arrested Masmari following a month-long investigation into the New Year’s Eve arson. According to police, Masmari had a one-way ticket to Turkey and was carrying both his Libyan and United States passports at the time of his arrest outside a Bellevue home. Police say“numerous” people called in to identify Masmari as the man seen in images from surveillance video recorded at the club the night of the attack.

Under a plea deal, the defendant did not face terrorism or a hate crime charges — though, according to the prosecution, a “confidential informant” told investigators that Masmari said homosexuals should be “exterminated.” In a statement as part of the plea, Masmari said he drank an entire “cheap bottle of whiskey” on New Year’s Eve and told the court he did not remember what happened afterwards.

In July of 2014, Judge Ricardo S. Martinez handed down a 10-year sentence in the case — twice the amount of time prosecutors and Masmari’s lawyers were asking for under the plea agreement. An appeal of the sentence on technical grounds wound its way through the justice system in the months following. This summer, a federal appeals court ruled that the 10-year sentence against Masmari was just and should stand:Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 10.12.51 AM

Masmari remains imprisoned at California’s Mendota Federal Correctional Institution. He also owes nearly $90,000 in restitution for the crime.

Neighbours, meanwhile, continues to do its thing on Broadway. Incidents like this small arson fire set outside the club in August are a reminder of the concerns about anti-LGBTQ violence in the neighborhood. But the 33-year-old club perseveres — and has a good time doing it. Its party, of course, is on the Capitol Hill list of 2015/2016 New Year’s Eve celebrations.

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11 thoughts on “Neighbours arson case finally drew to close in 2015

  1. Any word yet on how police found out Masmari had booked a flight, why “a joint terrorism task force” was involved, or which such task force it was? It seems unlikely that someone could convince a judge that a search of airline records would turn up evidence of arson, and I’ve seen no reports of related terrorist activity or suspicion of such.

    • Why, it was a conspiracy Phil, of course. A vast right-wing/left-wing/middle-wing conspiracy. That’s what you’re going for here, isn’t it?

      • No, Jim. All I seek in this case is an explanation of how police found that the guy booked a flight (seems unlikely they’d convince a judge to warrant a search of airline records for evidence of arson), which terrorism task force was involved, and why a terrorism task force was involved.

    • Why wouldn’t the Joint Terrorism Task Force be involved? The guy tried to burn down a building with hundreds of people inside. Are you suggesting it gets the same amount of investigation as if he tried to burn down an empty building?

      • No, I’m not suggesting that. I observed that there were no allegations or reports of suspicions of terrorist activity. Setting a building on fire with hundreds of people inside is arson. I suppose if one thought that the people would not be able to exit in time, it would be attempted mass-murder. Without intent to intimidate or coerce society or government for ideological or political reasons in the process, that is not terrorism.

        My suspicion is that the local police got a federal agency involved in order to take advantage of the various forms of unlawful surveillance in which our federal government are known to engage.

      • So, wanting to exterminate homosexuals and carrying out such a desire by setting fire to a building full of people who are more likely than not to be gay would not qualify, in your mind, as an attempt to ‘intimidate society for ideological purposes’?

      • And it was not reported that the Joint Terrorism Task Force (does such an entity exist?) was involved but that a joint terrorism task force was involved. This is why I think it’s reasonable for reporters and their readers to ask, which one?

  2. Who cares how the police found out he had booked a flight? The important thing is that they DID find out, and that helped lead to the arrest/charging of a heinous criminal.

    • Who cares how they do it? I am sure you’d care if religious conservatives put surveillance cameras on your streets so they can better monitor your kind or put your name in their database because they believe certain people terrorize their utopia where only a man and a woman can get married.

    • Bob, I care how they found out, because I have yet to think of a way they could do so under our system of law.

      Our government hasn’t been allowed to issue general warrants since that revolution a couple hundred years ago. The man was suspected of attempted arson. How one could convince a judge that he or she expected to find evidence of arson or of an attempt at such by searching travel purchase records is beyond me.

      My guess is that local police got their federal buddies involved so that they could dip into NSA’s bag of dirty tricks and pull up some information gained unlawfully.

      We have good reason to limit our government’s ability to snoop around in our private affairs. The end doesn’t always justify the means.

      • No, not always. But I think it did in this case. A heinous criminal, who very well might have killed scores of people, was arrested and brought to justice.

        You seem to often object to some so-called “invasion of privacy” based on what might theoretically happen in other cases. It’s “slippery slope” thinking, as best exemplified by the NRA, which objects to every possible gun control proposal, no matter how minor and reasonable.