TOLEDO, Ohio (RNS) A federal judge on Thursday (March 21) denied an Indiana man’s request to withdraw his guilty plea in an arson blaze last September at a Toledo-area mosque.
Judge Jack Zouhary of U.S. District Court in Toledo said Randolph Linn, 52, of St. Joe, Ind., was fully competent on Dec. 19 when he pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the Sept. 30 fire at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.
The judge confirmed a sentencing date of April 16 for Linn, who was charged with intentionally defacing, damaging, and destroying religious property; using a fire to commit a felony; and using and carrying a firearm to commit a crime of violence.
Linn, who did not testify at the hearing, had filed a motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, saying he had signed the plea under duress and that he “did not have the opportunity to discuss defenses, tactics, strategies, or the nature and effect of my guilty plea and sentencing.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bridget Brennan contended that Linn had no legal basis to have his plea withdrawn, but was only having “second thoughts” about his decision.
As part of the plea agreement, Linn is expected to be sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of more than $1 million.
Linn, a former Marine, testified in December that, after drinking 45 beers, he became enraged when he saw a wounded U.S. soldier on television.
“Every day you turn on the TV you see Muslims killing Americans, trying to blow up stuff,” Linn said at the Dec. 19 hearing. “It was my way, I guess, in trying get some payback for people that got killed, all the Muslims over in the Middle East, you know.”
He testified that he drove two hours to the mosque in Perrysburg, Ohio, that he had seen in his travels as a truck driver, stopping along the way to fill three cans with gas. Security cameras at the mosque caught Linn dressed in camouflage and walking through the empty building with a gun in hand.
He admitted to pouring gasoline on the carpet in the main prayer hall and setting it on fire. The fire and smoke, along with water damage from sprinklers and fire hoses, caused more than $1.5 million in damage and repairs are still under way.
Although there were some "surprises" in Linn's Dec. 19 testimony -- including "the quantity of beer that he had that day" -- there was nothing to indicate that Linn was not competent when he entered his guilty plea, Zouhary said.
(David Yonke is the editor of Toledo Faith & Values.)