|Judge denies arsonist's request to withdraw guilty plea|
|Written by By PETER KUEBECK/Sentinel Staff Writer|
|Thursday, 21 March 2013 11:35|
TOLEDO – A bid by admitted Islamic Center arsonist Randolph Linn to withdraw his plea of guilty to federal hate crimes and weapons charges has been denied.
U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary closed the door on the motion Thursday morning during a court hearing. However, Linn will have the option to appeal after he is sentenced next month.
Linn, 52, St. Joe, Ind., pleaded guilty in December to the September 30 arson at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, on Scheider Road in Perrysburg Township, and through a binding plea agreement was to be sentenced to 20 years in prison, and pay an as-yet-undetermined financial restitution.
However, Linn filed a “pro se” action in January asking to withdraw the plea, citing “depression” and “duress.” His current lawyer, John Thebes, later filed a more official motion, arguing statements Linn made during the plea hearing pointed to questions regarding his mental state, and thus his plea should be withdrawn and a psychological examination take place.
In court on Thursday, Thebes argued that statements from Linn about the arson, including “It’s just something I jumped up and did,” opened the possibility that “his mental state at the time of the offenses was in question.”
“The record’s clear that Mr. Linn was not subject to any testing, psychological assistance whatsoever.”
Noting legal standards for a plea withdrawal, Thebes said that a “fair and just reason” must be posited for such a withdrawal, and that these questions of sanity and competence qualify.
“It gives me pause, quite frankly, given Mr. Linn’s (non-existent) criminal record and what he told the court.”
Lawyers represeting the U.S. Government, however, characterized Linn’s plea as simply having “second thoughts,” and aruged that during the previous plea hearing he waived the option of pursuing an insanity defense.
Recounting statements focused on by Thebes, one prosecutor argued “impulsivity is not incompetence, your honor.”
“What is the harm if he were to be examined for sanity?” Thebes rejoined. If Linn is proved to be sane, he would be in a worse position legally and, “if he is insane, haven’t we done the right thing?”
The prosecutors further argued that there is actually no reason to suspect Linn of mental illness, thus negating any need for a psychological evaluation. His crime, they argued, took time and planning, and Linn had two hours in his drive from St. Joe to Perrysburg Township to reconsider.
Zouhary argeed with the prosecutors, noting item-by-item that “there is nothing particularly striking about the defendant’s answers” during his hearing in December, and that Linn’s demeanor reflected “nothing unusual.”
“This was not something that just happened,” he said of the arson.
Following the ruling, Thebes told reporters that Linn was “disappointed” in the court’s denial of his motion, and that his client didn’t know why the crime occurred.
Thebes explained that, after the April 16 sentencing, Linn will have 30 days to file an appeal. He said the questions discussed Thursday in court could form the center of an appeal, as could additional issues that might have nothing to do with the official court record. Thebes anticipated that he would not handle any appeals Linn might file.
Cherrefe Kadri, president of the Islamic Center, acknowledged that the process is moving along, and that she would return for Linn’s sentenceing next month. However, she lamented the crime and its aftermath.
“The sad part is, not only were we hurt, as a community, because somebody hates us that much – we’re a symbol – he destroyed his own life.”
|Last Updated on Thursday, 21 March 2013 11:43|
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