The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Mosque Arsonist Pleads Guilty, Implicates Fox News in Fueling Hate

By Bill Morlin on December 20, 2012 - 2:17 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim, Hate Crime

An Indiana man who pleaded guilty yesterday to setting an Ohio mosque on fire told a judge he was motivated by media accounts – specifically those on Fox News – suggesting Muslims were threatening Americans and were in control of parts of the federal government.

Details made public at the plea hearing also revealed that the arsonist, Randolph Linn, was carrying a pistol when he entered the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo on September 30, only minutes after several worshippers had left, and had more guns in his car.

Linn, a 52-year-old truck driver from St. Joe, Ind., expressed no remorse when he admitted trying to burn down the third largest mosque in the United States. Under the terms of a plea agreement, prosecutors and Linn’s defense attorney will recommend a prison term of 20 years when he is sentenced early next year.

Accounts of the federal court hearing were provided to Hatewatch by Mahjabeen Islam, president of the mosque, who was present along with 10 other members of the mosque.

When U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary asked Linn about his motivation, he responded that he was spurred on by newspaper, radio and Fox News accounts suggesting Muslims were killing “us” and were in control of the Department of Homeland Security and the White House, Islam recounted.

“When asked if he knew any Muslims or about the Islamic faith, he said he did not, he knew only what he got from Fox News and he did know that ‘they don’t believe in Jesus Christ as the savior,’” Islam said.

“Randy Linn’s statements clearly incriminate the media,” Islam said. “We call on print, Internet and broadcast media to educate the public about various cultures and religions and promote the strength of diversity, rather than whipping up hatred that leads to such destruction. Fox News, in particular, needs to reset its course and policies very quickly.”

The fire caused an estimated $1 million worth of damages.

“We are grateful that no one was injured or killed when Randy Linn came to the Islamic Center,” Islam said. That kind of tragedy, she said, “was a major possibility” because Linn entered the mosque carrying a gun in his hand and had three other firearms in his car.

“The prospect of Randy Linn finding anyone in the Islamic Center is spine-chilling, and we appeal for attention and action on the easy availability of these deadly weapons,” Islam said.

Court documents say Linn left his Indiana home on Sept. 30 in a red four-door Chevrolet Sonic, stopping at a gas station near Perrysburg, Ohio, to fill three gas cans he had in the vehicle, before driving on to the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. The mosque in Perrysburg is the third largest in the United States, a 70,000-square-foot landmark, visible for miles, with 3,000 members who celebrated the center’s 32nd anniversary in October.

Linn made numerous efforts to enter the Islamic Center before finally gaining entry, walking through several rooms with a pistol in his left hand before exiting and then returning with a gas can, the court documents disclosed. He entered the mosque’s prayer room on the second floor and poured gasoline on the prayer rug used by worshippers during prayer services. Linn then set fire to the rug and fled. His actions were caught on surveillance cameras and he was arrested a few days later after the photos received media coverage.

Islam said attending the hearing and seeing Linn left her “numb and overcome.”

“At no point during the hearing did Randy Linn reveal any remorse for what he had done,” she said. “He pled guilty to all three counts but took no responsibility.”

Linn pleaded to intentionally defacing, damaging, and destroying religious real property because of the religious character of that property; using fire to commit a felony; and using and carrying a firearm to commit a crime of violence.

“His guilty plea, acceptance of a binding plea agreement with no chance for appeal, and a prison sentence of 20 years sends out a clear message to future criminals that our society will not accept hate and violence,” she said.

Islam’s comments were echoed by U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach of the  Northern District of Ohio, who said, “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. This was a true joint effort to seek justice for these victims.”

Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said the freedom to worship in the manner of one’s choosing is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans.

“The Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division will continue to aggressively prosecute hate-based attacks on houses of worship,” Perez said in a statement. “I commend the cooperative efforts of local and federal law enforcement officials to ensure justice in this case.”

  • shannon miller

    I have been reading this and it set off Radar there is a Young grl who goes by the Name Naomi Chambers on Youtube she is sadly very anti Muslim and writes horrific blogs on muslims and targets people. She is also one of Mr.Bill Windsors Loyal followers and hates my last name which happens to be Hernandez and is doing hate videos as week speek..yall have got to check this out its an ongoing extention to the So called FR Nancy Rolfe…we are being threatned and bullied and gettn threats from Rape to death…American Mothers Political party followers are being revictimized….please take note its just not me.

  • aadila

    There is a difference between blaming FOX news for the arsonist’s actions, and seeing how the arsonist’s beliefs were influenced by FOX news.

    Unfortunately our educational system thinks filling out ovals with a number two pencil is the same as critical thinking and dialectical reasoning, so it is not surprising this subtlety would go right over some people’s heads.

    What we are discussing here is the relationship between (A) distortions by the media and (B) hate crimes. Correlation does not imply causation. There may indeed be a cause and effect relationship, but it is not a simple question, and there are no simple answers.

    Obviously though, if the arsonist is claiming he was influenced by FOX news there is a correlation. Some people may deny FOX caused the crime, but no one can deny there is a correlation.

  • Mary

    I rather think the zionist comment has to do with the unlimited and unquestioning american govt. support of Israel. It often appears to me as if the Israelis/zionists are controlling our policies. Otherwise, i think the US would do something about the ongoing Jewish destruction of Palestine and the Palestinian people with the kinds of actions the Nazis used against the Jews in Europe.
    Anyone who can’t see the parallel needs new eyeglasses. I don’t think we can boast about the destruction wrought in the takeout of Saddam. Bush just wanted a war to make himself look like a president of consequence-when Cheney was the real power. And he and his friends profited mightily from the invasion of Iraq.

    Anyone with any knowledge and half a brain would have seen the uselessness of fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. They will be back in total power just as soon as the major american force is out of the country. The taliban might be hated, but they are feared and Afghanis co-operate with them in order to stay alive. Much as white people in America often stayed silent as the KKK did its lynching and murdering. Libya is still a work in progress and Egypt doesn’t look to great even now.

    A lot of us have a right to be scared of certain groups. My fear is that the zionists will be rewarded for destroying a whole nation. What group/nation will be next?

  • Gini Barrett

    The First Amendment does not allow yelling “fire” in a crowded theater; meaning that using speech that incites people to harm others is not allowable “free” speech. Fox is sure close to the line, if not over it. It would be worth testing this with a court case or 100.

  • Roger MacEvoy

    Look, Fox does encourage hate mongering, have you ever watched Hannity? Comparing it to Call of Duty is just nuts by the way because Call of Duty isn’t encouraging you to vote for hate.

    But free speech is just that, free speech and the instant we stop protecting it we fall into the same slippery slope that we have with torture. Look where that led us, now Hollywood is rewriting History just as bestselling authors and Hollywood did with Reconstruction. We are going to be stuck with a falsehood that could allow decision makers can get away with murder in the future. So we are stuck in this case taking the bad with the good.

  • Otto Beckman

    The gentleman who stated that the United States is somehow occupied by Zionists, represents the opinion of many uneducated people in the Muslim world.

    This, after the Americans took out Saddam, helped save Libya from disaster, have given aid to Egypt for 40 years, and fought the hated Taliban in Afghanistan.

    That kind of thinking is scary!

  • Kate DeBraose

    Fox is an outlet for political propagandists whose aim is to divide and conquer Americans by promoting their philosophies that American laborer’s wages should be firmly and permanently kept down to Depression Era levels.
    They probably believe this is the only sort of economic stagnation that can gain them fortunes, fame and completely undeserved political powers among Republicans.
    I am speaking about disaster capitalists like Mitt Romney, for instance.
    Evidently he and his group would buy manufacturing companies that were beginning to lose money. They would fire employees and close those businesses, taking all their valuable assets with them, including the employees’ pension funds.

  • Terry Washington

    I don’t as a rule like FOX TV any more than the average “trendy leftie” but this claim sounds like an updated version of”the devil made me do it!”

  • Adam

    Blaming FOX news for ones actions is as foolish as blaming “The Man for keeping me down,” so that’s why I sell drugs and commit crime. Come on people, as intelligent as you all clearly are, why do you have such a double standard for it being ok for YOU to hate those that have a different opinion than you. FOX is no more biased and full of S**T than CNN or MSNBC!! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, as I’ve been scolded before, it’s not hate when it comes from you, it’s disdain, contempt, and loathing, a WHOLE different animal apparently!

  • SAS

    20 years for an act of arson ? This fellow is likely to be off the streets for a long time.

    The bit about FOX News instigating his act of vandalism does not surprise me in the least, though.

  • Aron

    Mohammed,

    While I agree with you that Islam is a truly beautiful religion, your rant about ZOG kind of destroys any credibility you were trying to build.

    But nice try!

  • Mohammed

    The arsonist is an idiot.

    But does not deserve 20 years.

    Give him couple of years and let him attend friday prayer service in that mosque for few months so that he could see the beauty of Islam and taste the sweetness of faith.

    USA is occupied by Zionist. Fox news is their mouth piece. If you love USA address this problem .

  • CM

    Reynardine and Erika,

    I still think suing for libel or slander ought to be an option. Fox News makes false and defamatory statements on a regular basis, but they’ve been getting a free pass because they target large groups or politically prominent individuals. I don’t see why they (or anyone else) should be excused from paying the price for defaming people falsely just because they defame them en masse instead of individually.

    “Gorgias,”

    The fact that you chose the name of a notorious Sophist for your screenname speaks volumes. If you would reread the post, you would see that “Linn … expressed no remorse when he admitted trying to burn down the third-largest mosque in the United States.” Why would he try a “ploy” to evade responsibility for an act he clearly still considers right and good? It strikes me more as a case of “Fox said it, I believe it, and that’s that.”

  • TheSapient1

    I’m sorry, I don’t like Fox’s BS anymore than the next guy, but one cannot blame media for one’s own stupidity. You live in the US, you can probably read, even if you don’t own a computer you can go to the library. If a person doesn’t take the time to verify their facts before deciding to kill people that really is there fault. It’s only slightly more valid than if someone say, killed Russians and blamed the Call of Duty series. There is no disclaimer on CoD games informing the player that Russians aren’t really trying to destroy the United States just as Fox News has no disclaimer saying that it isn’t really news.

  • John

    Regardless of the news channel, you have to be weak minded to let a media source influence you in such a way.

    I wonder if the people who’re saying FOX NEWS shares a portion of the blame would say the same thing if it was CNBC or CNN?..I would certainly hope so..Fair is fair

  • aadila

    Gorgias,

    No one is blowing FOX News’ role out of proportion so drop the hyperbolic commentary.

    The issue is that this arsonist linked his activities to the influence of right wing media and the endless harping about the threat of Islam.

    What part about that do you not understand?

  • Reynardine

    I believe the Alan Berg case found civil liability for inciting violence against an individual, who was then murdered. The recgnition of standing for immutable groups under the same circumstances seems not too farfetched, especially in cases where, owing to prior occurances of like kind, the result was foreseeable.

  • Erika

    Rey, other than the FCC bringing back the Fairness Doctrine and the notion that fairness is required in order to protect the public’s right to receive information, i can’t really think of any actions which would not violate the First Amendment. Unfortunately Fox News is cable so the broadcast rules do not apply, but it also appears that the FCC could issue fines and the like for the broadcast of hate speech just like they can find the broadcast of obscenities. i’m not sure that covers cable though – i just don’t know a lot about it.

    ALF – Animal Liberation Front

    ELF – Environment Liberation Front.

    That was in response to the people who showed up saying that they should not be punished for burning others property and that they did not hurt anyone – apparently becuse they agreed with them. If they support people whose ideology they agree with to burn property they should be consistent and support people whose ideology they find repulsive be able to burn property as well.

    Of course, that is a completely indefensible stupid position, but that is basically my point. Defending anyone burning property for political beliefs is stupid and indensible.

  • Reynardine

    Erika, though American jurisdictions do not generally recognize group libel and Beauharnais was a crriminal case under a specific Illinois statute designed to meet situations of racial violence, it strikes me there must be some theory under which Rupert’s criminal empire can be reached.

    ALF? ELF?

  • Erika

    Will any of the ALF and ELF apologists who think that their actions are acceptable support this guy and claim he is being treated unfairly? i’m not holding my breath – but this guy and the ALF/ELF did the exact same thing – trrying to advance their agenda (what they believe is right) through the use of fire attacks. If you are not a complete and total hypocrit (and rather clueless) if you support one person using fire attacks, you should support everyone being able to use fire attacks regardless of the agenda.

    Of course, i suspect that all of the ALF/ELF apologists are rightly horrified by what this guy did – after all, this guy is simply a terrorist.

    On a completely different note, how will Fox News try to spin this – i suspect they will go with ingoring until the story becomes overwhelming and then they will go with “liberal plant” and “blame the victim” by claiming that the Mosque really was connected to terrorism by some really dubious means and doubling down on the anti-Moslem rhetoric.

    How soon until Fox News manages to get itself listed on the hate group list?

  • Shadow Wolf

    This is how the American Justice System works. At the very least, no lives were lost in this reprehensible hate attack. Just structural and property damage which can always be rebuilt. But human lives however, cannot be replaced.

    Faux Noise Network is known to brainwash the weak minded zombies who view its benighted program. Rendering them to act out their dark desires. Such as the case (locally speaking) with a Gilbert, AZ woman, who ran over her husband with her vehicle, because he did not vote for Romney. This, after sulking over Faux Noise Network election night. Despite Faux’s consistent misinformation towards the weak and gullible., I hate to say it, but they are protected under the First Amendment Rights.

  • concernedcitizen

    I disagree with this, I think we have more of a problem with closet Nazi’s having control in the Federal Government, and that is not to say it is limited to the Federal Government, but that it’s a spreading cancerous philosophy that needs to be investigated and addressed.

  • Gorgias

    One has to wonder if Linn’s citation of FOX News as the inspiration for his crimes is a ploy to deflect some attention of the vileness of his crime. Yes, I don’t doubt that FOX News plays a strong role in shaping the worldviews of bigots like him, but it seems a tad too convenient that he’d out-and-out say during his trial that he did it because FOX News told him so. Is this a canny attorney’s strategy to take some of the heat off of a particularly repulsive client by portraying him as an ignorant victim of FOX News’ anti-Muslim propaganda, perhaps?

    Not that it really matters in the long run. Linn deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison, and FOX News needs to be held accountable, if not legally, at least in the court of public opinion, for generally poisoning this country’s political discourse.

  • Aron

    He also claims to have drunk 45(!) beers before he crossed state lines to commit the arson.

    Something tells me was wasn’t drinking Duvel…

  • Reynardine

    It would be great to find a legal theory to go after Rupert Murder and his fortune for this.