Carl James Dial
pleaded not guilty to charges of arson, burglary and committing
a hate crime in connection with Friday's fire in the entrance of
Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley, the Riverside County
District Attorney's Office said.
Authorities said the fire caused no injuries. But it charred the
building's stucco front entrance, leaving it with chunks of
plaster torn out and littered with debris.
The local Desert Sun newspaper reported on Wednesday that Dial's
parents are seeking a lawyer to take the case, which they said
was complex, pro bono.
The blaze heightened concerns about an anti-Islamic backlash in
the wake of the Dec. 2 massacre of 14 people by U.S.-born Syed
Rizwan Farook, 28, and his Pakistani-born wife, Tashfeen Malik,
29, at a holiday party in San Bernardino, about 75 miles (121
km) northwest of Coachella.
The FBI has said it is treating the shooting as an act of
terrorism, citing the couple's declaration that they were acting
on behalf of the Islamic State militant group.
On his Facebook page, Dial made a number of references to
Islamic State, such as on Oct. 31 when he wrote that he was
watching execution videos by the militant group.
He also overlayed his profile picture with the French flag, as
have many Facebook users in response to Islamic State's
coordinated series of shootings and suicide bombings in Paris
that killed 130 people last month.
The district attorney's office said Dial was set next to appear
in court on Dec. 28 for a conference. If convicted, he could
face a maximum sentence of 11 years and four months in prison,
the office said.
He remains held in the Indio Jail on bail of $150,000, the
district attorney's office said.
President Barack Obama will travel on Friday to San Bernardino,
the White House said on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie
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