A former HanaHaus employee charged with setting his boss's home on fire was convicted of arson of a dwelling place and an enhancement of arson with use of an accelerant, a Santa Clara County prosecutor said.
Muhammad Hassan Khan, 27, of Palo Alto, was convicted by a Santa Clara County jury after roughly two hours of deliberation, Deputy District Attorney Charles Huang said. The verdict was delivered on Sept. 6.
Khan was arrested on Jan. 10, 2016, and was initially booked for attempted murder and arson after trying to burn the Eichler home. He was arrested one day after the fire in the 3400 block of Kenneth Drive. Prosecutors later charged him with the arson and enhancement counts.
Three residents, a couple in their 50s and a teenager, were in the home at the time of the 6 a.m. blaze. They were awakened by a smoke detector in their attached garage, according to police.
The woman burned her hand and suffered some smoke inhalation after trying to open the garage door, which was on fire from the outside. The man, Khan's former supervisor, exited the home and found the exterior of the garage and the driveway in flames. The man used a garden hose to extinguish the blaze before Palo Alto firefighters arrived on scene. The garage sustained moderate to major damage, according to police.
The arson stemmed from work-related disagreements that Khan had with his direct supervisor, Huang said. Khan was terminated from his job after surveillance video caught him wearing a mask and disguise while breaking into HanaHaus at 2 a.m. on Thanksgiving in 2015 to release roaches into the establishment, Huang said.
The prosecutor praised Palo Alto police for their investigative work in solving the crime and securing the conviction. The case was entirely circumstantial, since no one saw Khan set the fire, but Huang said he was surprised by how quickly the jury came to its decision.
"They had to weigh through a lot of evidence and testimony," the attorney said.
But the jury understood how dangerous and life-threatening Khan's actions were, he said.
"He endangered the whole family. The victims will never feel safe in their home again," Huang said.
Khan faces probation to 13 years in prison, he said. He is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 12.