From the federal courthouse, Ansel reports:
Musab Masmari is pleading guilty to federal. arson charges for New Year's Neighbors arson attempt, could get between 5-20 years in prison.
— Ansel (@Ansel) May 2, 2014
There were 750 people in the nightclub when the fire was set. All escaped unharmed.
UPDATE from Ansel: "It's a great result for the community," said Assistant United States District Attorney Todd Greenberg. "The defendant took responsibility for a serious and violent crime." Masmari's plea agreement recommends a five-year prison sentence plus five years of supervision upon release. However, a federal judge could sentence Masmari up to 20 years in prison at his upcoming sentencing hearing. Susan Storey from the King County Prosecutor's office was tight-lipped and would not explain, when asked, why the case was transferred to federal court, but she did say the standard charge for arson at the county level is 21-27 months. "Five years is a much better result," Storey said.
In the courtroom, a bearded Masmari was demure and extremely slow to respond as the judge asked him whether he agreed with all the provisions of the plea agreement. What about the question of whether this was a hate crime? "Nothing has happened with it yet," Greenberg, from the US Attorney's office, told reporters. "One of the issues for the court at the time of sentencing will be to address the motive." Judge Ricardo Martinez will preside over the sentencing hearing on July 31.