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Man accused of threatening to kill Muslims is a ‘victim’ of alt-right social media, his attorneys say

LAPD officers discuss the arrest of an Agoura Hills man who is accused of threatening the Islamic Center of Southern California. (Video by Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

An Agoura Hills man who state prosecutors say called the Islamic Center of Southern California and threatened to kill people because they were Muslim made some “intemperate comments” but is basically a decent man who is a victim of today’s toxic political climate, his attorney said Friday.

Investigators allege that Mark Feigin, 40, called the center twice last month, at one point threatening to kill its members because of his “hatred for Muslims and his belief that Muslims will destroy the United States,” Los Angeles police Cmdr. Horace Frank said at a news conference this week.

The L.A. Police Department launched an investigation into the calls and arrested Feigin during a traffic stop Oct. 19, Frank said. Police searched his Agoura Hills home and found several guns — rifles, shotguns, handguns — and thousands of rounds of ammunition in his Agoura Hills home, the commander said.

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But the guns were just a collection and Feigin never fired them, said Robert Sheahen, one of his attorneys. He acknowledged Feigin “made some intemperate comments,” but said he is not conceding his client’s guilt.

The attorneys also released a statement Friday saying their client has no prior criminal record and poses no threat:

“Mark Feigin is a good, decent man. He has no criminal record and he is not a danger to anyone. He has worked as a Chinese translator, as a screenwriter and as a real estate developer,” the statement said. “If anything, Mr. Feigin was a victim of the toxic national discourse of this political season.”

Feigin has been exposed to a lot of “alt-right” media coverage that vilifies Muslims, his attorneys said. The so-called “alternative right” is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a movement of groups and individuals — largely to be found on social media and the Internet — who espouse extreme right-wing ideology and white identity politics. The movement has gained a higher profile for its embrace of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“Mr. Feigin now realizes we must work as a nation to put an end to fear and intolerance,” the statement said. “Our Islamic brethren must be both protected and respected. We hope to be able to reach out to Islamic representatives in the near future to begin a process of apology, contrition, dialogue — and education.”

State prosecutors charged Feigin with making criminal threats. His weapons and ammunition were seized pending the outcome of his case, Sheahen said.

Feigin faces an additional allegation of committing a hate crime and a misdemeanor count of making annoying telephone calls, according to documents filed in court last week. He is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 10.

The first call to the Islamic Center came Sept. 19, when a man left a voicemail that was “peppered with vulgarity and espoused hatred toward the Muslim faith,” Frank said. The next day a man called again, threatening to kill the person who answered the phone along with other members of the center, police said.

“Unfortunately, in today’s political climate, such hate is not uncommon,” said Omar Ricci, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Southern California. “We get a call every once in a while. This particular call rose to a different level.”

Frank did not specify how police identified Feigin as their suspect, saying only that police were able to “connect the voice to the person who called.” Investigators obtained warrants to arrest Feigin and search his home last week.

Though Feigin has a constitutional right to free speech, Frank said, “that right does not extend to making statements that threaten the well-being of others.”

“People make those calls all the time,” he said. “Where you cross the line is the threat to kill them. … That’s where free speech ends.”

Police are also looking into Facebook posts and tweets that may be connected to Feigin, Frank said. Many of the tweets shared by the LAPD include disparaging, profanity-laced remarks about Muslims, calling Muslims “filthy Islamic beasts” and saying they should be “quarantined.”

The tweets also included remarks against Muslim refugees — “drowning them is best,” one read.

Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report.

Joseph.serna@latimes.com

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.


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