A judge refused last week to lower the $1 million bail for a man who allegedly set fire to a large apartment complex under construction in downtown Los Angeles — a conflagration that also melted freeway signs and damaged nearby buildings. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Upinder S. Kalra refused the defense’s request to reduce bail to $575,000 for Dawud Abdulwali, 56, who is charged with one felony count each of arson of a structure and aggravated arson. “I see no change of circumstances,” the judge said, noting that he agreed with Superior Court Judge Sergio C. Tapia II’s May 28 decision to set bail at $1 million for a defendant who is a “flight risk” and `has a significant criminal history locally.”
The charges against Abdulwali stem from a Dec. 8 blaze that engulfed the Da Vinci complex near Temple Street and Fremont Avenue, near the Harbor (110) and Hollywood (101) freeways. Prosecutors say an accelerant was used on the fourth floor of the seven- story complex, helping to rapidly spread the blaze. Deputy District Attorney Sean Carney told the judge that Abdulwali is “no neophyte” to the criminal justice system, with a record for offenses, including grand theft.
The prosecutor said damages as a result of the fire probably will exceed $100 million, calling it an “arson of massive proportions.”
Deputy Public Defender Lowynn Young countered that there were “no injuries whatsoever” as a result of the blaze. Outside court, she said she did not believe her client presented a flight risk.
“He has family support. He’s been here since he was 15 years old,” she said. “Although it was significant property damage, no one was injured.”
If Abdulwali is able to post bond, he will be required to surrender his passport. The Los Angeles man was arrested May 26 by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Anti-Terrorism Division. The overnight fire caused $20 million to $30 million in damage to the 1.3 million-square-foot complex, which was largely in the framing stage, according to the fire department.
At least two-thirds of the structure collapsed during the fire, which also damaged two nearby office towers owned by the city. Mayor Eric Garcetti said the fire caused about $50 million to $60 million in damage to city property. Investigators announced 10 days after the fire that it was the result of arson, saying they had “recovered sufficient evidence to eliminate all known potential accidental causes and determine the fire was intentionally set.”
Abdulwali is due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom July 22, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial. He faces 10 years to life in prison if convicted as charged.