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Suspect in Seattle gay bar fire pleads guilty to federal arson charge

Saturday, May 3, 2014
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SEATTLE — A man who set fire to a crowded Seattle nightclub just after midnight on New Year’s Eve has pleaded guilty to a federal arson charge.

FacebookMusab Mohamed Masmari

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Musab Mohamed Masmari

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan says 30-year-old Musab Mohammed Masmari put more than 700 people at risk when he poured gasoline in a stairwell at Neighbors, a gay nightclub, and lit it.

Masmari, formerly of Bellevue, was identified through surveillance video and was arrested a month after the arson as he prepared to leave the country.

He was originally charged in state court, but the federal takeover of the case ensures Masmari will serve more than twice the prison time than if he had been convicted in state court, said Durkan.

Under the plea agreement, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to a five year prison sentence, although the maximum penalty is 20 years.

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Federal prosecutors haven’t discussed a potential motive for the arson, but Masmari drew police attention several times over the past year for erratic behavior, including assaults and refusing to stop painting a railing at his apartment building.

Last month, KIRO-TV reported that Masmari received a taunting email three days before the event from someone investigators believe knew about Musmari’s self-admitted “distaste for homosexuals.”

Detectives called the emails “evidence pertinent to hate crime.”

Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg said Masmari’s intent will come into play in sentencing, which is scheduled for July.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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