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Arson charge after Molotov cocktail toss at mall

Friday - 10/19/2012, 4:40pm  ET

Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - The man accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail into the food court at a northern Virginia mall stood silently and refused to answer any questions at an initial court appearance Friday.

Leon Alphans Traille Jr., 29, who has no fixed address, was charged Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria with arson. A conviction carries a mandatory minimum of five years and a possible maximum of 20 years, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Fitzpatrick.

When Traille, in a prison jumpsuit and sporting a bushy beard, refused to answer any of the judge's questions, U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Carroll Buchanan ordered that he receive a court-appointed attorney and be held pending a detention hearing scheduled for Monday.

A court affidavit says that a man matching Traille's description threw a Molotov cocktail _ in this case a brown glass bottle holding at least 16 ounces of flammable liquid with matches taped to the bottle _ into Ballston Common mall's food court shortly after noon Thursday. No one was injured during the lunch rush and police evacuated the mall for several hours.

The device did not explode but produced a flame that was extinguished, according to the affidavit. Traille then went to the second floor of the mall and left behind three similar bottles before departing, according to the affidavit.

Rich Marianos, special agent in charge of the Washington office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, described the bottle as a "rude, crude incendiary device."

Traille was arrested Thursday afternoon near the Courthouse Metro station.

Court records give no indication of a motive.

Traille was also charged in state court in Arlington with reckless endangerment, use of a fire bomb and attempted malicious bodily injury by use of fire. But Arlington prosecutors dropped those charges as Traille was taken into federal custody. Arlington County Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos said it made sense from the standpoint of judicial efficiency to drop the state charges once the federal charges were filed.

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