New York man charged in fire-bombing of mosque

Federal and state grand juries have indicted a New York man on suspicion of hate crimes in connection with five New Year’s Day Molotov cocktail attacks, including one against a mosque and another on a building used as a Hindu place of worship.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn and the Queens District attorney on Monday announced their indictments separately in “parallel cases,” an unusual circumstance in which state and federal charges are brought over the same incident.

The attacks alarmed religious leaders concerned over violent religious bigotry, though police said the suspect may have also been motivated by personal grudges.

The suspect, Ray Lazier Lengend, 40, confessed to all five fire-bombings upon being arrested two days after the attacks, police said at the time.

His defense lawyer, Kenneth Deane, declined to comment on Monday.

Police said Lengend admitted to them he planned to “take out as many Muslims and Arabs as possible … and made further references to his dislike of Muslims, Arabs and Hindus,” the Queens District Attorney’s office said in a statement.

“According to the charges, the defendant endangered scores of people when he allegedly tossed crude firebombs at five buildings during a hate-filled rampage,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in the statement.

The state grand jury accused Lengend of first-degree arson as a hate crime, a charge that could result in 25 years to life in prison if convicted. The 36-count indictment also alleges grand larceny, reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child, and other charges.

The federal indictment alleges seven counts, including hate crime through the use of fire and explosives, which could result in 20 years to life in prison should he be convicted of all charges.

The suspect poured gasoline into five glass containers – at least one was identified as a Starbucks Frappuccino bottle – and threw them while lighted at different locations in Queens, causing varying degrees of fire damage, authorities said. No one was injured.

One of the targets was the Imam al-Khoei Foundation, a Shiite organization where 75 to 80 worshippers were inside the mosque, imam Maan Alsahlani said at the time.

Another was a private residence where Hindus also worship, and a third was a deli where a store employee had previously accused him of shoplifting, authorities said.

Two other petrol bombs hit private residences, authorities said.

Reuters, 19 March 2012