HOUSTON, Texas — The Muslim charged with arson of his own mosque on Christmas Day is going before a judge to determine if there is enough evidence to continue holding him.
An examining trial has been set for Wednesday, January 20.
The defendant who has been charged with first degree arson, Gary Nathaniel Moore, said he attended the mosque every day for five years.
Clint Broden, a Dallas lawyer who is certified in both criminal trial and criminal appellate law told Breitbart Texas, “The legal purpose of an examining trial is to determine if there is enough evidence to hold a person in jail or on bond. The practical purpose, however, is to allow a defense attorney to question the person investigating the case and perhaps other witnesses under oath early in the process.”
Broden added, “It is extremely rare for a defendant to ‘win’ an examining trial and have the charges dismissed. Nevertheless, often a defense lawyer can obtain information that can be useful to the defense going forward.”
On December 31, a Harris County criminal court judge heard evidence presented by prosecutors and found probable cause to hold Moore, as reported by Breitbart Texas. The evidence against Moore, as set out in the indictment and again below, is compelling.
According to court documents attained by Breitbart Texas, the charging instrument sets forth that Moore started a fire on December 25, 2015, with the intent to destroy and damage a place of worship. He is charged with arson of the Savoy Masjid Mosque in Houston.
The Houston Fire Department (HFD) responded to the fire about 2:47 p.m. on Christmas Day and an HFD investigator determined that the fire had five separate and distinct points of origins. The mosque was reported to have two doors at both the entry and exit. A container of charcoal lighter was recovered at or near one of the points of origin.
A HFD fire investigator interviewed the Imam who said the mosque was kept unlocked from 7 am – 7 pm every day. The Imam also said there were five regular prayer times during the day and the last one had been at 1:00 p.m. that day. The Imam said he did not know how the fire started, and said there should not have been any ignitable liquids inside the mosque.
Moore told a Houston fire investigator on the day of the fire that “he learned of the fire at the mosque from another member of the mosque who called him at home and brought him back to the mosque.”
Moore was interviewed at the scene on Christmas Day. He told an investigator that he had been a member of the mosque for five years and that he comes to the mosque to pray five times a day, seven days a week. Moore said he walked to the mosque on Christmas Day at about 12:30 p.m. and said he was the last person to leave the mosque. He also told the investigator that he did not smell or see any signs of smoke or fire before leaving the mosque. He said he left at 2:00 p.m. to go home.
Surveillance video was obtained from a business close-by. The investigator reported the video showed “a bald headed dark skinned male walk quickly away from the mosque at 2:39 pm.” He was wearing long dark shorts, a white t-shirt, and had a backpack. The video also showed that three minutes later at 2:42 p.m., smoke could be seen coming from the camera’s viewing angle. Video footage also shows the same person walking towards the mosque at 12:54 p.m.
The investigator who interviewed Moore looked at surveillance video from another location and positively identified the man leaving the mosque as the same person he spoke to at the scene of the fire on December 25. On December 28, another investigator showed Saleem Memon, a member of the mosque for eleven years, a surveillance photo of the man leaving the mosque. He positively identified the man as Gary Nathaniel Moore.
On December 29, a search warrant was executed for Moore’s residence, and officials found a backpack and clothing that appeared to be the same as Moore had on when at the mosque.
A container of charcoal lighter was also found at Moore’s residence that was like the charcoal lighter recovered from Moore’s residence. The lighter fluid was apparently purchased in a pair.
If convicted, Moore could spend up to 99 years in prison or life. Arson is normally a second degree felony punishable by two to twenty years in prison. When it is elevated to a first degree felony as it has been in this case, it is punishable by five to 99 years or life in prison if a person sets fire to a place of worship.
Moore is being held on a $150,000 bond and is in the Harris County jail. If the judge does not decide to release him because there is evidence to proceed with trial, his defense lawyer, Edward M. Chernoff, would have had the opportunity during the examining trial to hear the evidence that prosecutors have against his client.
As reported by Breitbart Texas, the mainstream media has apparently lost interest in the story. Once authorities revealed the identity of the alleged arsonist as not a white racist inspired by Donald Trump but a Muslim, not much as been written on the matter as accurately predicted by Breitbart News’ John Nolte.
Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as an associate judge and prosecutor. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2