Neighbours nightclub arsonist sentenced to 10 years in prison

SEATTLE -- A man who tried to set an iconic gay nightclub on fire on New Year's Eve has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for arson, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Thursday.

Musab Mohammed Masmari, 30, pleaded guilty in May to smuggling a gallon of gas into the popular Capitol Hill nightclub Neighbours and attempting to set the club on fire.

He was sentenced today in U.S. District Court to 10 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said the quick thinking of nightclub patrons averted a mass tragedy, especially since New Year's Eve might be the club's busiest day of the year, with more than 700 people inside when the gas was lit.

"But for the actions of some very quick thinking folks, we could have a very serious tragedy," Martinez said. "(The fire) was a few seconds from causing significant injury or death."

Masmari carried the gas tank into the club around 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. He concealed the gas tank in a shopping back, and hid the lighter at the top of the stairs. He lit then lit gas he poured on the stairs and quickly left the club, hoping the trail of gas would ignite the can.

But patrons put out the flames before Masmari's plans could come to fruition. He was arrested a month later, as he prepared to travel to Sea-Tac Airport for international travel.

He was prosecuted in federal court, ensuring a longer sentence, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.