The “American psyche” was damaged when an armed arsonist set fire to a Toledo mosque, much like the impact of Monday’s bombings in Boston, a federal judge said in sentencing an Indiana man to 20 years in prison.
Randolph Linn, 52, of St. Joe, Ind., was also ordered to pay restitution of more than $1.4 million. He pleaded guilty in December to setting fire to the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo last September. He told the court he was inspired by media accounts, specificially those on Fox News, suggesting Muslims were threatening Americans and controlling parts of the federal government.
“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,” U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary told Linn, the Toledo Blade reported.
“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 said.
Those thoughts were echoed by Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
“Hate crimes like this seek to damage more than buildings; they take aim at our American way of life,” Dettelbach said in a statement. “But today’s 20-year prison sentence and the coming together of this community to support our Muslim neighbors show that our freedoms are stronger and more resilient than this man’s hatred.”
Cherrefe Kadri, president of the Islamic Center, said the crime was senseless. “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,” Kadri said, the Toledo newspaper reported.
Linn offered an apology, saying he had been drinking heavily at the time and hadn’t listened to his now ex-wife’s warnings about his alcohol use.
“I messed up her life,” Linn said. “I messed up my own life. Thank God I didn’t hurt anybody at the mosque. … I’m sorry for everything I done. I hope someday I can be forgiven.”
Linn’s ex-wife, Karen Sechler, attended the hearing with a friend, saying later she “wanted to see for myself. I wanted to see justice served.” The Toledo newspaper reported that 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),” she said. “He’s not remorseful.” She added 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.”
On the day of the arson, Linn drove from his home in northeast Indiana to Ohio, stopping to fill three gasoline cans near the Islamic Center in Perrysburg, Ohio. The 3,000-member mosque is a 70,000-square-foot landmark, visible for miles.
Court documents say Linn entered the mosque carrying a handgun, moments after worshipers had left. He then went back to his car, returned with a gas can and poured gasoline on a second-floor prayer rug, igniting it as he fled. His actions were caught on surveillance camera photos that were publicly distributed, leading to his arrest a few days later.