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Craig Tamanaha, 49, was arrested on Wednesday after the Fox News tree was seen in flames outside the network’s headquarters in New York City. Security guards told police they saw the man climbing the 50-foot tree before somehow setting it alight.
Mr Tamanaha has been charged with arson, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment, and a number of other charges.
But according to local reports, this was not his first run-in with the law. A photojournalist covering the trial of Ms Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s former girlfriend and accused enabler, says she encountered Mr Tamanaha in a parking area last month.
“I photographed him during the Maxwell trial,” Ms Moon wrote on Instagram, along with a photo of Mr Tamanaha being handled by police. “He exposed himself outside the court. Then he got escorted to NYPD.”
The next time Ms Moon saw him, less than two weeks later, was when his face appeared in news reports on the Fox News fire.
“I was a little shocked,” Ms Moon told the New York Post.
According to an NYPD spokesperson who spoke to the Daily Mail, Mr Tamanaha also has three other arrests on his record: two in March for controlled substances, and one in 2015 for an open container.
On Wednesday, Mr Tamanaha was released after his arraignment because his charges, which do not include a felony, were insufficient for the judge to set bail.
On his way out of court, Mr Tamanaha reportedly protested his innocence in the course of a bizarre rant.
“The mothers’ society, the mothers who rape their daughters, they set it on fire,” he told the New York Daily News. “Ask the moms who want t rape their f***ing daughters. They set it on fire. I didn’t do it. I’m going home. Anybody got a cigarette?”
Mr Tamanaha’s father, Richard Tamanaha, says his son is mentally ill.
“Oh, he’s a nut. I can’t control him,” the elder Mr Tamanaha told the New York Post. “Mentally, he’s not all there.”