Christmas tree arson suspect released without bail

(Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

Yesterday morning, somebody set fire to the huge Christmas tree that had been erected outside of the building that’s home to Fox News in New York City. The tree was completely destroyed, causing an estimated $500,000 in damage. But the police quickly had a suspect in custody along with plenty of evidence to suspect they had the correct person. 49-year-old Craig Tamanaha, a homeless person with a long rap sheet, was arraigned on a variety of charges including arson, reckless endangerment, and criminal trespass. But because this had taken place in New York City, Tamanaha was immediately released without bail and put back out on the streets, where he promptly put on a bizarre performance for reporters seeking a comment from him. (New York Post)

The arsonist who allegedly torched the Fox News Christmas tree was freed after his arraignment Wednesday night because his charges were not eligible for bail under new liberal reform laws.

“I didn’t do it!” suspect Craig Tamanaha, 49, claimed to reporters outside Manhattan criminal court after being asked about the early morning arson that caused about $500,000 in damage outside the Midtown building that houses Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.

Tamanaha, a vagrant with a lengthy rap sheet, also went on an incoherent rant outside the courthouse. He denied the arson and hurled obscenities at reporters before asking them for a cigarette.

This was yet another example of the results of recently enacted “bail reform” laws in New York City. Despite the lengthy list of charges facing Tamanaha, none of them qualified for cash bail and he was immediately released. On top of that, it turns out that the suspect has a long list of prior convictions, including some for violent crimes. To sweeten the pot further, he was found to have two outstanding bench warrants for previous charges. Exactly how much does somebody have to do in New York before they can be locked up?

When I first heard about the act of arson, I was immediately suspicious about the motive. The building where the tree was set up is not only home to Fox News, but also the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. I wondered whether the arsonist was someone who had a bone to pick with conservative media outlets. But it turns out that this probably wasn’t the case. Tamanaha seems to be several donuts short of a full dozen. His father told reporters that he has a long history of mental illness and aberrant behavior. When reporters asked him about setting the fire, he not only claimed to be innocent but screamed and blamed the fire on “moms that want to rape their f—ing daughters.”

I only bring up the mental state of the suspect because it raises even more questions about why he was put back on the street without bail. He clearly isn’t rolling in cash, so he likely could have been held for a while until a trial date was set. We’re talking about someone who was willing to start a massive fire in a crowded area right next to a building. As already mentioned, he has a lot of priors, along with outstanding bench warrants. Can anyone honestly say that he wasn’t a potential risk to society? And yet he’s out there right now, walking the streets and potentially looking for more matches.

Craig Tamanaha should be the poster child for repealing those insane “bail reform” laws that Democrats passed in New York. Putting that lunatic back out on the streets did no favors to either society or Mr. Tamanaha himself. He clearly needs help, in addition to having to face charges for his reckless actions. Society is arguably less safe as a result and it’s all because of the liberal bail reform laws that were enacted.

We learned last night that Fox News is already putting up a new tree and will have a lighting ceremony this evening. Let’s hope that Mr. Tamanaha isn’t in the area for the event. Here’s a brief video covering the announcement of the new tree lighting, along with a memo that Fox put out after the arson attack.