Man Who Set Fire to Neighbors Nightclub on New Year’s Eve Pleads Guilty to Federal Arson Charge
A former Bellevue resident who set fire to a Seattle nightclub just after midnight on New Year’s 2014 pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to arson, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. Musab Mohammed Masmari, 30, was originally charged in King County Superior Court but pleaded guilty today to a criminal charge filed yesterday in federal court. Under the terms of the plea agreement, both sides will recommend the mandatory minimum five years in prison when Masmari is sentenced on July, 31, 2014. U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez is not bound by the recommendation and can sentence Masmari up to the maximum 20 years allowed by law.
“This defendant violated people’s right to gather safely: he put more than 700 lives at risk when he purposely started a fire at a crowded nightclub on New Year’s Eve,” said U.S. Attorney Durkan. “Thankfully, the staff and patrons at Neighbours moved quickly to evacuate the club and extinguish the flames. Federal prosecution ensures a five-year mandatory minimum sentence—one that is more than double the potential sentence faced in state court.”
“The collaboration in this case between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, and state and federal law enforcement authorities has resulted in swift and serious consequences for the defendant,” noted King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. “Although the fire was quickly put out, Mr. Masmari’s actions put hundreds of people at risk. The sentence he faces in federal court reflects the inherent danger of his actions.”
According to the facts admitted in the plea agreement, Masmari carried a one gallon tank of gas into the club in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood around 11:30 p.m. on December 31, 2013. He concealed the gas tank in a shopping bag. Just after midnight, Masmari poured some of the gasoline on a staircase in Neighbours and hid the gas container behind a planter at the top of the stairs. The container was still more than half full of gasoline. At 12:06 a.m., Masmari lit the gas he had poured on the stairs and hastily left the club. Masmari was identified as a suspect following a review of surveillance videos. He was arrested by the Seattle Police Department and FBI on February 1, 2014, as he was preparing to travel to Sea-Tac Airport for international travel. He has been incarcerated in King County since his arrest and was transferred to federal custody today.
The case was investigated by the Seattle Police Department and the FBI.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg and Senior Deputy King County Prosecuting Attorney Susan Storey.