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Authorities: He Set Fox Christmas Tree Ablaze, Then Vanished

Officials say suspect Craig Tamanaha was freed without bail but is now on the run
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2021 12:35 PM CST
Updated Jan 4, 2022 12:59 PM CST

(Newser) Update: A 49-year-old man accused of torching the artificial Christmas tree outside of Fox News in New York City last month is apparently now a fugitive. Craig Tamanaha was freed without bail just hours after his arraignment for the alleged arson in the early morning of Dec. 8. Tamanaha was arraigned on charges of felony second-degree criminal mischief, misdemeanor second-degree reckless endangerment, and misdemeanor fifth-degree arson, and Fox News notes that recent criminal-justice reforms prohibit bail for such charges. However, the judge in Tamanaha's case told the man he still had to check in regularly with a supervised release program, a condition that officials say Tamanaha reneged on. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office says an arrest warrant for Tamanaha was issued on Wednesday. Our original story from Dec. 8 follows:

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A man who allegedly scaled the 50-foot artificial Christmas tree outside Fox News headquarters and set fire to it just after midnight Wednesday is in custody, the NYPD has confirmed. Police say the 49-year-old suspect, identified as Craig Tamanaha, doesn't appear to have had a political motive, NBC New York reports. No injuries were reported, but the tree, which was decorated with 10,000 glass ornaments and 100,000 lights, according to Fox, was wrecked. Workers at the Manhattan building were seen taking down what was left early Wednesday.

Police say Tamanaha, who's homeless, will be charged with arson, criminal mischief, criminal nuisance, criminal tampering, criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct, and reckless endangerment, Politico reports. In a letter to employees, Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott described the fire as a "malicious arson attack." The tree, which was "just lit in a beautiful on-air ceremony on Sunday night, was engulfed in flames and smoke permeated the building," Scott wrote. She said it would be rebuilt to send "a message that there can be peace, light, and joy even during a dark moment."

The tree was in "Fox Square" outside the News Corp. building that also houses the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. Politico reports that Fox & Friends' co-hosts discussed the fire Wednesday morning. Steve Doocy said that according to witnesses, the suspect climbed about halfway up the metal superstructure before lighting newspapers on fire. "It's beginning to look a lot like arson," he said. Brian Kilmeade said, "This is part of a bigger problem. It's the crime surge in this country." (Read more Fox News stories.)

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