Dressed in a Lucas County jail jumpsuit, Randolph Linn appeared Thursday in federal court, where he pleaded not guilty to charges that he intentionally set fire to the prayer room at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.
Mr. Linn, 52, of St. Joe, Ind., was indicted by a federal grand jury this week on one count each of intentionally defacing, damaging, and destroying religious real property and using fire to commit a federal felony. Magistrate Judge Vernelis Armstrong accepted his not-guilty pleas in U.S. District Court and ordered him held in custody pending the outcome of the case.
Authorities said Mr. Linn drove to the Perrysburg Township mosque on Sept. 30 and broke into the building and used gasoline to start a fire in the second-floor prayer room. His identity remained unknown until law enforcement released still photos to the public taken from surveillance video filmed at the center during the incident.
On Oct. 2, a woman was able to identify the suspect, telling authorities that Mr. Linn had complained about the international Muslim community’s reaction to an anti-Muslim video online as well as recent attacks on U.S.embassies overseas and the death of American military personnel in the Middle East, authorities said. She further stated that Mr. Linn complained that Muslims in the United States get a “free pass,” authorities said.
Mr. Linn was arrested that same day at work in Fort Wayne, Ind. While being booked on the charges, Mr. Linn reportedly said to an officer, “[expletive] those Muslims,” authorities said.
“As this department and this community have repeatedly said, we will have zero tolerance for such violent acts of intolerance,” Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said in a statement. “Religious freedom is at the core of our country, and we will continue to aggressively prosecute such hate crimes whenever and wherever the evidence warrants.”
During his arraignment in federal court, Mr. Linn said little other than to answer the questions addressed to him by Judge Armstrong. His court-appointed attorney, Andrew Hart, declined to comment on the case after the hearing.
Judge Armstrong notified Mr. Linn that the charge of damage to religious property is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The second count of using fire in the commission of a felony has a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Based on a preliminary review of the federal sentencing guidelines, Mr. Linn faces between five years, 10 months and seven years, four months in prison (70 to 88 months) for the charge of damage to religious property followed by a 10-year mandatory sentence for using fire, if he is convicted of the crimes.
Judge Armstrong set a Nov. 8 deadline for attorneys in the case to file motions. She noted that Judge Jack Zouhary, to whom the case is assigned, would then set a trial date.
The incident was investigated by the Perrysburg Township Police Department, Ohio Fire Marshal, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the FBI.
In a statement released Thursday, Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson noted that a Wood County assistant prosecutor had appointed a special assistant U.S. attorney to assist on the case.
“This case has been a cooperative effort, with state and local law enforcement initiating the investigation and federal agents subsequently stepping in to assist,” Mr. Dobson said. “It is time to take the next step and seek federal prosecution with the active participation of the same state and local investigators.”
Contact Erica Blake at: email@example.com or 419-213-2134.