For all that the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo lost when an arsonist set fire to its prayer room Sept. 30, Cherrefe Kadri, president of the center, said the arsonist lost much more.
On Tuesday, Randolph Linn, 52, of St. Joe, Ind., was sent to prison for 20 years and ordered to pay restitution of more than $1.4 million.
“We don’t feel anger as much as we feel hurt that someone hated us that much — someone who’s never met us, someone who knows nothing about us,” Ms. Kadri said before the sentence was imposed in U.S. District Court in Toledo.
Addressing Linn directly, she talked about the Muslim community in the Toledo area and the healthy relationship it enjoys with members of all faiths. Dressed in a jail jumpsuit, Linn alternately looked at her as she spoke and looked down.
“I honestly pray for you to find inner peace and solace, because it seems perhaps that these were missing in your heart,” Ms. Kadri said.
Linn offered an apology saying it was him, but it wasn’t really him, who drove from northeast Indiana to Ohio that day, filled gasoline cans he’d brought along, and walked through the Perrysburg Township mosque holding a gun before pouring gasoline on the second-floor prayer room’s large rug and igniting it.
He said he was drinking heavily that day and in the months prior. He said he hadn’t listened to his now ex-wife’s warnings about his alcohol use.
“I messed up her life. I messed up my own life,” Linn said. “Thank God I didn’t hurt anybody at the mosque. … I’m sorry for everything I done. I hope someday I can be forgiven.”
In addressing Linn before sentencing, Judge Jack Zouhary drew parallels between the mosque arson and Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon.
“What is common in both the Boston Marathon bombing and in this situation is that there was damage to our American psyche in some way,” the judge said. “... What you did also was an assault — as was the Boston Marathon bombing — an assault on what I call the American spirit, on our unique and founding principles of freedom, tolerance, and respect.”
The judge imposed the 20-year sentence agreed upon in December when Linn pleaded guilty to one count each of intentionally defacing, damaging, and destroying religious property; using fire to commit a felony, and using and carrying a firearm to commit a crime of violence. The judge also ordered him to pay restitution of $1,446,810 — an amount that included $1,000 to the Islamic Center for its deductible and the balance to Westfield Insurance Co.
Judge Zouhary noted that Linn had taken responsibility for the crime and said his substance-abuse problems “clouded your judgment that day and led you on that car ride across state lines — that very unfortunate car ride across state lines.”
Gwen Howe-Gebers, special assistant U.S. attorney and an assistant Wood County prosecutor, asked Judge Zouhary to send a message that this type of criminal behavior will not be tolerated.
“It is difficult to believe today he is truly sorry for his actions,” she said. “The government believes he is more sorry for getting caught and ruining his life.”
Linn’s ex-wife, Karen Sechler, attended the hearing with a friend, she said afterward, because she “wanted to see for myself. I wanted to see justice served.”
Ms. Sechler, who was married to Linn for 23 years and divorced him after his arrest, said he got what he deserved.
“I didn’t believe a word of [what he said in court]. He’s not remorseful,” she said, adding that she had not foreseen what he did at the mosque. “When Randy would be drinking, whatever political was going on, he would rant and rave about it and then the next day, when he was sober, you’d never hear about it again.”
Linn’s attorney, John Thebes, said no decision has been made on whether to appeal.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.