Man accused of threatening to burn mosque denied bail

Philip Marcelo
Associated Press

Boston — A man accused of threatening to burn down New England’s largest mosque and making other threats to the Muslim community was held without bail on Tuesday.

Patrick Keogan, who’s from suburban Boston, made his initial appearance in federal court on Tuesday on charges of making online threats and being a convicted felon in possession of ammunition. He didn’t enter a plea and is due in court again on Thursday.

Authorities allege that in November the 44-year-old Wilmington resident posted an image depicting a mosque in flames on the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center’s Facebook page with the message: “Burn your local mosque.” They say he also included the statement “Hello scumbags” and a smiley face emoji in his post.

Keogan posted the same image on the Islamic Society of Northeastern University’s Facebook page and made other statements supporting mosque burning in Facebook posts going back to 2013, they said.

An attorney representing Keogan declined to comment on Tuesday.

The Islamic Society of Boston’s executive director, Yusufi Vali, said the mosque is grateful to law enforcement for pursuing a complaint about the posting.

“This sends a clear message not only to our community but to the world that our Boston, Massachusetts and federal government embraces its Muslims,” he said. “The extremists on both sides hate the idea that there could be an American Muslim.”

The head of the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, John Robins, said such threats aren’t surprising when politicians and “anti-Muslim hate groups” continue to “demonize large swaths of the Muslim community.”

Keogan’s Nov. 14 post came the day after coordinated attacks in and around Paris killed more than 100 people and injured hundreds more.

Vali said the mosque, located in Boston’s historically black Roxbury neighborhood, has gotten other threatening messages, mostly on its Facebook page, and passes them along to law enforcement officials for investigation.

This is the second case federal authorities have brought in recent months dealing with threats against the mosque.

A man from Clinton, Iowa, pleaded guilty to threatening to shoot and kill Muslims in posts on the Islamic Society of Boston’s Facebook page and was sentenced in December to four years of probation.