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A federal judge has ordered Randolph T. Linn – who is charged with setting fire to a mosque outside of Toledo, Ohio, earlier this month – held without bail until he stands trial on two federal hate crime charges returned this week by a grand jury.
Linn, who has expressed obscenity-laced anti-Muslim comments, is a flight risk and “there is serious risk that the defendant will endanger the safety of another person or the community,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Vernelis K. Armstrong said in an order filed after a hearing Thursday.
After viewing evidence against Linn in a closed session, the grand jury panel voted this week to indict the 52-year-old St. Joe, Ind., truck driver on two federal charges – intentionally defacing, damaging and destroying religious real property because of the religious character of that property and using fire to commit a felony.
Federal jurisdiction in the case comes, in part, because the alleged crime affects interstate and foreign commerce. According to the indictment, Linn drove from Indiana to the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, located just outside Toledo in Perrysburg, broke in and used gasoline to start a fire in the prayer room.
If convicted, Linn faces 70 to 88 months in prison for damage to religious property and a mandatory 10-year sentence for using fire to commit a felony, the Toledo Blade reported in today’s editions.
During his arraignment, Linn answered questions only from the court. His court-appointed attorney, Andrew Hart, declined comment outside the courtroom, the newspaper reported.
Linn was arrested two days after an arson fire caused heavy smoke and water damage to the Islamic Center of Toledo, the third largest mosque in the United States. The quick arrest came about because a man matching his description was captured on video at the mosque and an acquaintance recognized him and alerted authorities.
The case has touched the desk of Thomas E. Perez, head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. In a certificate filed as public record, the assistant attorney general said the federal prosecution of Linn for defacing and damaging the Islamic center “is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.”
“The Department of Justice will aggressively prosecute persons who attack, deface, or damage houses of worship because of racial or religious animus,” Perez said in a statement released today.
The case is an example of local, state and federal law enforcement working cooperatively “to ensure that no one in this country is hindered in their ability to worship freely in the manner of their choosing.”
As an example of that cooperation, Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson said an assistant prosecutor from his staff has been designated as a special assistant U.S. attorney to assist in the prosecution of Linn.
Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said there must be “zero tolerance for such violent acts of intolerance.”
“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,” Dettelbach said. “Local, state, and federal law enforcement are to be commended for the speed with which they identified and arrested the suspect.”