New York, NY – The arsonist who set the Christmas tree on fire outside FOX News headquarters on Wednesday was released without bail later the same day under New York’s progressive bail reform laws.
“I didn’t do it!” 49-year-old Craig Tamanaha told reporters outside Manhattan criminal court on Dec. 8, the New York Post reported.
Then he went on a nonsensical rant about how “the moms that want to rape their f—king daughters — they set it on fire.”
Tamanaha also allegedly exposed himself to reporters outside the Ghislaine Maxwell trial in the federal courthouse last week, the New York Post reported.
The latest incident occurred at about 12:15 a.m. on Dec. 8 outside the Sixth Avenue building in midtown that is home to FOX News, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal, WPIX reported.
Police said that security guards inside Rockefeller Center saw 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.
Police said the suspect was arrested without incident, WABC reported.
Tamanaha’s motive was unclear but police said he may have tried to get into Rockefeller Center before he decided to climb the News Corp. tree.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said detectives were investigating the incident and would look into whether the suspect was on drugs or suffering from a mental illness when he set the Christmas tree on fire, WABC reported.
“The motive I don’t think is clear at this point,” Commissioner Shea said. “It’s an individual that is known to us. He has a series of low level arrests and drug arrests. He was issued earlier this year some appearance tickets and didn’t come back to court, which unfortunately is something we see all too often.”
The commissioner said Tamanaha also had some low-level arrests in other states on his record, WABC reported.
The damage to the tree was estimated to be about $500,000.
News Corp. vowed to redo the tree with its 10,000 glass ornaments and 100,000 lights that took about 21 hours to assemble the first time around, WABC reported.
Tamanaha was charged with arson, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and criminal trespass, the New York Post reported.
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, 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 the two open warrants that Tamanaha had for desk appearance tickets that Commissioner Shea referred to and ordered the accused arsonist to return to court on Jan. 4.
Family members told the New York Post that Tamanaha had a track record of destructive stunts.
“Oh, he’s a nut. I can’t control him,” his father, Richard Tamanaha, said. “Mentally, he’s not all there.”
Photographers camped outside the trial of Jeffrey Epstein’s former girlfriend took pictures of the homeless man when he dropped his pants in front of them on the first day of the high-profile trial, the New York Post reported.
“I saw him walking around the square where media parks. He had a little weird behavior,” freelance journalist Jeenah Moon said. “He exposed himself to a female photographer and other people.”