New York, NY – The arsonist who set fire to the FOX News headquarters’ Christmas tree last month failed to show up in court on Tuesday and had had a warrant issued for his arrest.
The man who allegedly set the Christmas tree on fire outside FOX News headquarters at about 12:15 a.m. on Dec. 8, 2020 was released without bail later the same day under New York’s progressive bail reform laws.
Police said that security guards inside Rockefeller Center saw 49-year-old Craig Tamanaha climbing the 50-foot Christmas tree located outside at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and West 48th Street.
The tree is actually “a metal superstructure,” a sculpture shaped to look like a tree, WABC reported.
Police said the suspect brought papers with him when he climbed up and then shoved them into the tree structure and set them ablaze.
Authorities said the arsonist climbed back down the tree and then stood on the sidewalk and watched it burn, WABC reported.
A 49-year-old male suspect is in custody for allegedly setting a large Christmas tree on fire outside the Fox News headquarters in Manhattan. pic.twitter.com/gxK5SeMsjT
— Andy Ngô 🏳️🌈 (@MrAndyNgo) December 8, 2021
Fire Department of New York (FDNY) units arrived a moment later in response to a report of a trash fire and found the giant, fully-decorated holiday tree had erupted into flames, WPIX reported.
The blaze quickly spread from the big tree to smaller decorated trees that were set up around it, WABC reported.
Police said the arsonist didn’t try to leave the scene until building security spotted him watching his handiwork and pointed him out to officers.
Authorities said that New York Police Department (NYPD) officers who were responding to the scene apprehended the suspect as he tried to flee, WPIX reported.
The suspect was later identified as Tamanaha, a homeless man with prior arrests for drug possession and public intoxication, WABC reported.
Tamanaha had a lighter in his possession when police took him into custody.
His motive was unclear but police said Tamanaha may have tried to get into Rockefeller Center before he decided to climb the News Corp. tree, WABC reported.
The damage to the tree was estimated to be about $500,000.
The criminal complaint showed that Tamanaha told officers that he had been “thinking about lighting the tree on fire all day,” FOX News reported.
Tamanaha was charged with arson, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and criminal trespass, but he wasn’t held on bail.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bayley said at Tamanaha’s arraignment that the defendant was “not charged with a bail-eligible offense.”
Tamanaha was granted supervised released by Judge Marisol Martinez Alonso, who ordered him to check in with the supervised release program on a regular basis, the New York Post reported.
In order for the judge to hold Tamanaha on bail, he would have to be charged with at least third-degree felony arson.
Arson is only a felony under New York law if the suspect tried to harm someone or commits a hate crime, according to the New York Post.
The judge also vacated two open warrants that Tamanaha had for desk appearance tickets and ordered the accused arsonist to return to court on Jan. 4.
But Tamanaha did not show up for his court appearance on Tuesday.
Nor had he checked in with the supervised release program as ordered by the judge after he got out of jail, FOX News reported.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said on Jan. 4 that a bench warrant had been issued for the alleged arsonist’s arrest.