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Judge won't let mosque arson suspect withdraw plea


TOLEDO, Ohio – A former Marine from northeast Indiana who admitted setting fire to an Ohio mosque because he wanted revenge for the killings of American troops overseas won’t be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea, a judge ruled Thursday.

Randy Linn had asked to take back his admission to hate crime charges in January, a month after he explained in detail how he drove from his Indiana home to the suburban Toledo mosque and burned a prayer rug, causing extensive damage in the building.

Linn, 52, said 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.

U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary rejected the request, saying there was nothing indicating Linn was a candidate for an insanity plea and that he clearly was competent when he pleaded guilty in December.

Linn said at the time he decided to start the fire after seeing images of wounded soldiers in the news. Prosecutors maintained that Linn did not act on impulse and pointed out that he told his son two weeks before the fire that he wanted to burn down the mosque.

In opposing the withdrawal, prosecutors noted that Linn drove two hours from his home in St. Joe to the mosque and that he stopped on the way to fill three gas cans to start the fire.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan said Linn was asked at least four times before entering his guilty plea if he understood what he was doing.

“He’s just having second thoughts,” she told the judge.

A deal between prosecutors and Linn calls for him to receive a 20-year sentence. He’s scheduled to be sentenced next month.

Prosecutors said Linn had several firearms in his car and carried a gun into The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, which was empty at the time, before he started the fire on Sept. 30.

Linn estimated at his plea hearing that he had downed 45 beers over several hours before he decided to drive to Ohio.

“Maybe that helped explain his conduct,” the judge said Thursday.

Linn’s new attorney, John Thebes, did not attempt during the hearing to deny that Linn was responsible for the fire. Instead, he told the judge that a competency exam would allow him to determine whether an insanity plea was warranted.

A sprinkler system extinguished the blaze, leaving smoke and water damage in much of the facility, whose golden dome is a landmark along Interstate 75 just south of Toledo. No one was hurt.

Members of the Islamic center have been unable to use the building since the fire and hope that repairs will be finished sometime next month.