(Toledo News Now) - A federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging an IN man with hate crimes, stemming from the arson of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, law enforcement officials announced Thursday.
Randolph Linn, 52, of St. Joe, IN, was charged with one count of intentionally defacing, damaging and destroying religious real property because of the religious character of that property and one count of using fire to commit a felony.
Linn pleaded not guilty to both charges.
He will remain detained with no bond set. The judge called Linn a danger to the public and said no release conditions have been proposed that would ensure he would show up for future court hearings. Linn does have the right to appeal that.
"The Department of Justice will aggressively prosecute persons who attack, deface or damage houses of worship because of racial or religious animus," said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. "We appreciate the cooperation of state, local and federal law enforcement in their efforts to ensure that no one in this country is hindered in their ability to worship freely in the manner of their choosing."
"As this department and this community have repeatedly said, 'We will have zero tolerance for such violent acts of intolerance,'" said Steven Dettelbach, United States attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. "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. Local, state and federal law enforcement are to be commended for speed with which they identified and arrested the suspect."
Officials hope Linn's charges send a message to everyone.
"Today's charges should send a clear message to anyone who chooses to use fire and hate to destroy a place of worship. The FBI commends the collaboration between the local and federal agencies in their efforts to bring Randolph Linn swiftly to justice," said Stephen Anthony, special agent in charge of the FBI's Cleveland office.
On Sept. 30, Linn drove from IN to the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg. After unlawfully entering the center, he used gasoline to set fire to the center's prayer room, according to the indictment.
The Perrysburg Township Fire Department was notified about the incident just before 5 p.m. Officials and officers discovered a red plastic gas can in the middle of the prayer room and the carpet underneath had been burned. The fire was extinguished by a sprinkler system.
There was significant damage to the prayer room and other areas of the Islamic Center. Officials and officers determined the fire had been intentionally set, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court.
Security cameras at the Islamic Center captured images of a red, SUV-type vehicle in the parking lot at approximately 4:11 p.m. They also captured images of an older man, dressed in blue jeans and camouflage, who approached the front door of the center, according to the affidavit.
Security cameras also captured images of the man walking around the inside of the Islamic Center with what appeared to be a firearm and a gas can, and then leaving at approximately 4:54 p.m., according to the affidavit.
Law enforcement officials released still photos of the surveillance video Oct. 1.
On Oct. 2, a woman contacted officials and identified the man in the photos as Randolph Linn. The woman stated that she knew Linn and he had recently made anti-Muslim comments. Specifically, she stated Linn had complained about the international Muslim community's reaction to the anti-Muslim video on YouTube; recent attacks on United States' embassies, and the deaths of U.S. military personnel in the Middle East. She further stated that Linn complained that Muslims in this country get a "free pass," according to the affidavit.
The woman recognized the sweatshirt as one Linn owned and stated that three months earlier, Linn had purchased a red, SUV-type vehicle that matched the vehicle in the surveillance footage, according to the affidavit.
Linn was arrested at his place of employment Oct. 2. His vehicle, a red Chevy Sonic, was in the parking lot, stated the affidavit. He said he had three firearms in his parked vehicle.
The affidavit also said when Linn was being read his Miranda rights, he said: "(expletive) those Muslims."
The investigation is ongoing.
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