The man accused of setting fire to the All-American Christmas Tree just outside of Fox News’ New York City headquarters early on Wednesday could be back on the street within hours, an expert said.
Police have arrested suspect 49-year-old Craig Tamanaha after he allegedly scaled the 50-foot-tall tree at the center of Fox Square just after midnight in Midtown Manhattan.
But former Manhattan prosecutor turned criminal defense lawyer Mark Bederow said he will most likely be free by late Thursday since his crimes do not qualify for bail. “You can’t give the Christmas tree an order of protection, so security will have to stand guard,” he said.
“There’s no question that the legislature has got to reevaluate the nooks and crannies of the bail statute because it’s leading to absurd outcomes.”
Officers arrested Craig Tamanaha as he tried to flee the scene. The fire was extinguished but not before the big red, white, and blue decorated Norway spruce was turned into charred wood.
Tamanaha, who is homeless, cannot be held on bail for the alleged crimes due to the criminal justice reforms that were enacted in January 2020.
FOX News reports:
He faces one count each of second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree reckless endangerment, fifth-degree arson, second-degree criminal nuisance, third-degree criminal trespass, third-degree criminal tampering and disorderly conduct. All the arrest charges are misdemeanors and judges do not have the discretion to set bail on any of the counts.
For arson to qualify for bail, Tamanaha would have to at least be charged with third-degree arson as a hate crime.
“You’d have to intentionally damage a building or vehicle by starting a fire or explosion as a hate crime, which is an extraordinarily high bar for bail eligibility,” Bederow said. “Having a personal bias or animus toward Christmas doesn’t legally cut it.”
If Tamanaha is experiencing mental illness, a judge could order him held for a psychiatric evaluation. He is currently at the Midtown North Precinct.
It isn’t clear why he targeted the tree. He has prior arrests for criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminal mischief.