SEATTLE — A former Seattle resident has pleaded guilty in federal court to arson for setting fire to the outside of the Seattle Police East Precinct during the so-called “CHOP” occupation this past summer, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman.
Isaiah Thomas Willoughby, 36, agreed to a plea bargain in which federal prosecutors will recommend he serve three years of a possible five-year prison sentence for setting a fire outside the abandoned police precinct early on June 12, 2020.
Sentencing is scheduled before U.S. District Judge John Coughenour on Oct. 4. Willoughby’s defense attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Willoughby, who was most recently living in Tacoma, had been charged with five counts of arson and faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
According to the plea agreement, Willoughby admitted he used gasoline to soak a small pile of debris piled against the wall of the police station, then is seen on video setting it ablaze.
The fire was extinguished by others nearby and the building suffered no structural damage.
The incident was captured on video in which Willoughby is seen wearing a distinctive bright yellow sweatshirt from a clothing line he represented as a social media influencer. That sweatshirt helped police identify him, according to the complaint and plea agreement.
Relatives of Willoughby reported to police that he was in Seattle in the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone at the time of the fire. Following the fire, Willoughby took steps to remove posts from his social media accounts that may have linked him to the arson, according to court documents. However, at least some of his Facebook posts remain, noting his anger at police and his knowledge of the East Precinct building.
The charges allege that Willoughby had a grudge against Seattle police at the precinct for his treatment during an earlier arrest.