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MASONIC LODGE'S BIBLE BURNED

The man accused of the break-in and fire has been arrested before, including for flag burning.

An alarm sounded just before midnight Monday at the Masonic Lodge, 11807 N 56th St. A police officer arrived soon after.

This is what Officer C. Morris wrote in the report:

The window was broken, fingerprints fresh.

Inside, a burned Masonic Bible lay atop a damaged altar.

Nearby was Tod Redman Stewart, a 34-year-old homeless man. He was arrested at 12:27 a.m. and booked into a Hillsborough County jail.

This was the same man who set fire to a flag outside the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Tampa three times - once in 2007 and twice in 2006.

On Sept. 14, 2007, a Times reporter watched as three officers and a couple of federal marshals surrounded him on the same spot of sidewalk he'd chosen twice before. Stewart ranted about a government conspiracy.

He waved paperwork showing that prosecutors ended up dropping previous flag burning cases, because doing so isn't illegal.

An officer enumerated the things you can't burn without a permit - "paper, trash, clothing..."

Stewart shot back, "What about a cigarette?" He told an officer, "This is my only way of speaking."

Eventually, on his knees, he lit a flag on fire. He was arrested for resisting an officer, but those charges, too, were dropped.

His local arrest record began in 1995, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement says. He was convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

In 1999 and 2000, he was twice acquitted of theft charges by reason of insanity and was deemed mentally unable to stand trial on a charge of preventing the extinguishment of a fire, FDLE records say.

Last year he was convicted of trespassing in Tampa International Airport. Monday's arrest in the Masonic Lodge was his fourth for 2009.

In May, he was arrested at a Wal-Mart and charged with trespassing. He represented himself in court and was convicted. He was sentenced in August to time already served in jail, plus court costs.

On Sept. 16, he was convicted of petty theft. Again, he was sentenced to time served and court costs.

He has not paid the costs on either of those convictions, court records show.

Monday, Stewart was back in a Hillsborough County jail, being held with no bail.

His charges: burglary of an unoccupied structure, first-degree arson and criminal mischief to a place of worship.

According to state records, this was his 29th arrest.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

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