Man Accused of Hate Crime, Arson in California Mosque Fire

Earlier this weekend, a 23-year-old man named Carl James Dial from Palm Desert, CA, was arrested on on suspicion of committing a hate crime and arson in connection to a mosque in Riverside County, CA. On Friday afternoon, a fire was reported at the Islamic Center in Palm Springs. The fire was contained to the building’s front lobby, and no one was injured. The mosque is only 75 miles from San Bernardino, where the deadly shooting committed by Islamic extremists killed 14 people last month. It is the only mosque in Coachella valley.

In a statement released Friday evening, Congressional Rep. Raul Ruiz, whose district includes the area in which the mosque is located, called on authorities to investigate the fire as a possible hate crime. That same mosque was also hit by gunfire last November 2014 in what was also investigated as a possible hate crime.  

Mr. Dial was arrested and is being detained at the Riverside County Jail in Indio on suspicion of committing a hate crime, two counts of arson, one count of maliciously setting a fire, and one count of second-degree burglary. He is being held in lieu of a $150,000 bail. Authorities provided no details on how the fire was set. Mr. Dial is scheduled to appear in Court next week.

California Arson Law

California Penal Codes § 451 and 452 make it a crime to set fire to any building, forest land, or property willfully and maliciously or  recklessly. The punishment for arson in California depends on:

  • The type of property that was burned;
  • Whether someone was injured;
  • Whether you set fire willfully or only recklessly.  

Setting a fire recklessly is a misdemeanor, but it becomes a felony if someone is injured in the fire. Willful and malicious arson is always a felony in California, and you will even be charged with murder if you accidentally kill someone in the process (under the felony-murder rule).

California Hate Crime Law

California has its own specific statute which makes it a stand-alone crime to commit a hate crime. It is a felony to commit an act of assault or vandalism if your are motivated by one’s nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. Hate crimes are punishable by three years imprisonment for each act. See CA Penal Code 422.6.

San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

It is common these days for people to get wrongly accused of hate crimes. All it takes is for you to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, just to become a suspect. If you have been wrongfully accused of arson or a hate crime, contact the Law Offices of David M. Boertje today. This is a matter that needs to be immediately addressed by a skilled attorney. At the Law Offices of David M. Boertje, we will fight for you.