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Saying he heard and saw nothing to indicate an Indiana man was not of sound mind when he admitted setting a fire at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, a federal judge Thursday denied the arsonist’s request to withdraw his guilty plea.
Following a brief hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary said sentencing would proceed as planned April 16 for Randolph Linn, 52, of St. Joe, Ind.
“I do not find anything based on my recollection, based on my reading of the transcript, certainly based on the defendant’s statements and courtroom demeanor” that would indicate the guilty plea was not proper in some way, the judge said.
His ruling was met with approval by representatives of the Perrysburg Township mosque, whose congregation and school were displaced by the fire.
“It’s one of those cliches, but I think justice is served,” said Dr. Mahjabeen Islam, who was president of the Islamic Center at the time of the arson.
Dr. Islam, who attended Linn’s plea hearing in December, said she found him “completely sane, very coherent, very articulate.” She said she was glad to hear the judge make the distinction between the impulsivity of Linn’s crime and his “complete competency” at the time of his plea.
“There are times you feel proud of the justice system,” she said.
Linn, who made no statements in court Thursday, pleaded guilty on Dec. 19 to one count each of intentionally defacing, damaging, and destroying religious property; using fire to commit a felony, and using and carrying a firearm to commit a crime of violence for the Sept. 30 fire inside the prayer room at the mosque.
A month later, he filed a motion asking to withdraw that plea, contending he was under duress at the time. John Thebes, Linn’s new, court-appointed attorney, then filed a motion for a competency evaluation for Linn, which Judge Zouhary denied.
Mr. Thebes argued Thursday that Linn should be evaluated by a professional to determine whether he was sane when he committed the crime.
Bridget Brennan, an assistant U.S. attorney, countered that there was nothing to suggest Linn was insane at the time of the arson and said it was irrelevant anyway because he competently entered his plea. She suggested he was simply having second thoughts.
“At best … he was impulsive,” Ms. Brennan said. “Impulsivity is not incompetence.”
While Mr. Thebes zeroed in on statements in which Linn said he didn’t know why he did what he did, Judge Zouhary said Linn had offered the court his motivation for the crime.
“He was upset with what he believed was the unfair treatment of Americans by what I’ll call radical Muslims who are injuring and killing American soldiers elsewhere and that he heard this on the news and he had heard it several times and he told us that’s what drove him literally to come here and commit this crime,” the judge said.
Judge Zouhary said because of the binding plea agreement, which included a “predetermined” sentence of 20 years in prison, he was especially thorough and observant when he questioned Linn before accepting his plea.
“His answers to me indicate nothing in his background that would suggest that a psychological exam, were it to be allowed, would reveal something that would provide for a defense that was missed by the prior counsel,” Judge Zouhary said. “If there was something missed by a prior counsel, that would be appropriate for a different type of motion at a later stage of the proceedings, not the basis for the withdrawal of a guilty plea.”
Mr. Thebes said after the hearing that Linn has 30 days after his sentencing to appeal and that he would. “One of the issues is going to be the issue we’re here before the court today for,” he said.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.