AP: Ex-Marine gets 20 years in Ohio mosque fire

John Seewer

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge sentenced a former Marine from Indiana to 20 years in prison Tuesday for starting a fire inside an Ohio mosque because he wanted revenge for the killings of American soldiers overseas.

Randy Linn, 52, apologized in court and blamed what happened on a day of heavy drinking. He said late last year while pleading guilty that he’d become enraged after seeing images of wounded soldiers in the news and decided to burn the mosque.

U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary ordered Linn, of St. Joe, Ind., to pay $1.4 million for the damages caused by the fire.

Prosecutors have said Linn drove about two hours from his home to suburban Toledo on Sept. 30 and broke into the mosque where he poured gasoline on a prayer rug and lit it on fire. Linn had several firearms in his car and carried a gun into the mosque, which was empty at the time.

“Thank God I didn’t hurt anybody,” Linn said Tuesday. “I don’t think I would’ve, but the state of mind I was in, I don’t know.”

Linn pleaded guilty to hate crime charges last December. When asked then by the judge whether he thought all Muslims are terrorists, he answered: “I’d say most of them are.”

But Linn tried to take back his plea earlier this year, saying he was in an emotional and depressed state when he pleaded guilty. His attorney asked the judge to throw out the plea so Linn could undergo a competency exam.

Zouhary turned down his request to withdraw the plea last month.

Prosecutors have maintained that Linn did not act on impulse and pointed out that he told his son a few weeks before the fire that he wanted to burn down the mosque.

Cherrefe Kadri, president of the Islamic Center, addressed Linn in court before he was sentenced.

“We don’t feel anger as much as hurt that someone hated us so much,” she said as he looked away.

She said what he did was an attack on all religions and the entire community.

Members of the Islamic center were unable to use the building until just the last few weeks. A sprinkler system extinguished the blaze, leaving smoke and water damage in the prayer room of the facility, whose golden dome is a landmark along Interstate 75. No one was hurt.