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Suspect in mosque fire withdraws guilty plea

Linn

TOLEDO, Ohio – A former Marine from northeast Indiana who previously said he set fire to an Ohio mosque because he wanted to avenge the killings of American troops asked Tuesday to withdraw his guilty plea to federal hate crime charges.

In his request, Randy Linn said he was under duress and depressed when he entered his plea last month in the fire at a suburban Toledo mosque.

“I made the wrong decision,” he wrote.

A deal between prosecutors and Linn had called for him to be sentenced to 20 years next April after he pleaded guilty to intentionally damaging and destroying religious property and two gun-related charges.

Prosecutors say he broke into The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo last fall and went room by room to make sure no one was in the building before he poured gasoline on a prayer rug and lit it on fire.

Linn described on Dec. 19 how he had been drinking heavily before he drove to the mosque in Perrysburg. U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary asked Linn what motivated him to go there.

“Every day you turn on the TV, you see Muslims trying to kill Americans,” said Linn, 53, a truck driver from St. Joe.

When asked whether he thought all Muslims are terrorists, he answered: “I’d say most of them are.”

In moving to withdraw his plea, Linn said he did not have the chance to talk defense tactics, strategies or the effect of his guilty plea. Federal prosecutors declined to comment on Linn’s request.

Authorities said Linn had several firearms in his car and carried a gun into the mosque when he set the fire on Sept. 30.

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.

Members of the Islamic center have been unable to use the building and expect repairs to be finished by the end of March.

Linn said in court last month that he started to have second thoughts when he drove home. “Coming back, I thought, ‘What in the heck did I do?’ ”

“I feel bad I did it,” he said. “It’s a little too late now.”

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