Stuyvesant Student Charged With Starting Two Fires In School Caught On Video, Bragged To Friends

NY Daily News - November 21, 2009

by Melissa Grace, Erica Pearson and Wil Cruz

A Stuyvesant brainiac who set fires at the elite school made some stupid mistakes: getting caught on video and bragging to other students, officials said Friday.

Mohammed Hassan, 16, had Ivy League ambitions, but could be headed to jail instead of Harvard if convicted of arson and reckless endangerment.

A junior who once belonged to the math club, Hassan is charged with setting two blazes in bathrooms at the school - where several other fires are still under investigation.

His lawyer claimed his student was too smart to be guilty."He's a bright kid," said Kevin Faga. "His idea is to go to Harvard and eventually to law school."

The Bronx teen was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on charges that carry up to seven years in prison. He was freed on $2,500 bail.

Later, Hassan's father, Mohammed, insisted his son was innocent and "being framed."

"This is a false accusation," the father said outside his apartment in the Castle Hill section as his son cowered behind him, hiding his face in the hood of a sweatshirt.

"My boy doesn't know anything about any fires and they don't have any concrete evidence. My son is a good boy," the father said.

He claimed the second fire broke out while his son was in detention but school officials "ignored the whole situation, so I believe the principal is framing my son."

Hassan's older brother Sonny said his family was scrambling for more information.

"My parents don't know what to do," he said. "They need someone to speak to them about what to do."

Both of Tuesday's fires at the lower Manhattan school were captured on surveillance video.

It showed Hassan entering a seventh-floor bathroom at 1:13 p.m. and leaving two minutes later, the criminal complaint said.

A witness also saw someone who looked like Hassan go into the bathroom just before a garbage can went up in flames - bumping into another student as he "hastily" fled.

At 1:16 p.m., video caught Hassan walking into a different bathroom and quickly exiting - leaving "bright orange and yellow flames rising out of a large garbage can," investigators said.

Fire marshals are probing other fires at the school - in bathrooms, hallways and stairwells - in the past week, sources said. No one has been arrested, and Hassan has not been tied to them.

Hassan, whose nickname is Minhaze, is awaiting school disciplinary action.

Sources said Hassan told other students he was the firebug, but many Stuy kids were shocked.

"They've got the wrong guy," said Tareak Black, 16.

With Kerry Burke, Jonathan Lemire and Rocco Parascandola