California mosque fire suspect pleads not guilty

Posted at 6:15 PM, Dec 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-16 20:15:16-05
By Steve Almasy and Phil Gast


(CNN) — Carl James Dial pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges — including committing a hate crime — in connection with last week’s fire at a mosque in Coachella, California, officials said.

Dial, 23, was arraigned on the misdemeanor hate crime allegation and one count each of felony arson of a structure and burglary, the Riverside County District Attorney said in a statement. Prosecutors said the felony counts include allegations that they were committed as hate crimes.

The bail for Dial, who is in custody, remained at $150,000. His parents are asking for a lawyer to take the case pro bono due to its complexity, the Desert Sun reported.

The fire at the Islamic Society of Coachella Valley began just after noon Friday. Four or five people were praying inside the mosque when the fire started, Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit told CNN affiliate KMIR.

Nobody was hurt and the fire was quickly extinguished, though it caused smoke damage throughout the building, authorities said.

The FBI is investigating along with local authorities, said Laura Eimiller from the agency’s Los Angeles division.

Benoit said an incendiary device may have caused the fire.

The mosque has had an armed security guard since a shooting last year.

On November 4, 2014, someone fired four shots toward the Coachella mosque during the early morning hours while four people prayed inside, KMIR reported. Three bullets struck a vehicle, two hit the building and one lodged in a fence on the property but nobody was injured. No arrests have been made, KMIR said.

Coachella is about 30 miles from Palm Springs and about 80 miles from San Bernardino, where Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook fatally shot 14 people December 9. Farook’s father said his son supported ISIS.

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