The 49-year-old suspect who was arrested Wednesday in connection with the alleged torching of a Christmas tree outside the New York City headquarters of Fox News and News Corp. has been freed on no bail, according to a report.
Arson suspect Craig Tamanaha was seen leaving a Manhattan criminal courthouse on Wednesday night following his arraignment, the New York Post reported.
“I didn’t do it,” Tamanaha told reporters outside the building.
The fire, which happened early Wednesday morning, sent dangerous flames and thick smoke into the air outside the building at Sixth Avenue and West 48th Street, just hours before workers, holiday shoppers and tourists would be flooding sidewalks and pedestrian plazas in the area.
No injuries were reported in connection with the incident.
Investigators said the 50-foot artificial tree was set ablaze using a burning piece of cardboard, the Post reported. The fire’s damage was estimated to cost about $500,000.
The arson and other charges Tamanaha was facing – including criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and criminal trespass — were considered misdemeanors, not requiring a bail payment under liberal New York City’s laws, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bayley told the Post.
Tamanaha, reportedly a vagrant with a long criminal record, would have to be accused of a more serious charge of third-degree felony arson in order to be forced to pay bail for his release, criminal defense lawyer Mark Bederow told the newspaper. He said the more serious arson offense occurs only when there is perceived intent to harm a person or an allegation of a hate crime.
The suspect’s next court appearance was scheduled for Jan. 4, according to the report.
Meanwhile, Fox News is making plans to unveil a new replacement All-American Christmas tree outside its headquarters on Thursday during “The Five,” with Lawrence Jones and Abby Hornacek co-hosting the telecast, as they did for the previous tree lighting.