Man who sent pipe bombs to Clinton, CNN faces sentencing
NEW YORK — The Florida man who created a two-week crisis by mailing 16 packages of inoperative pipe bombs packed with fireworks powder and shards of glass to 13 famous Democrats and CNN is scheduled to learn his punishment Monday.
Defense lawyers urge leniency, saying Cesar Sayoc, burdened as a child by severe learning disabilities, was living alone in a cramped van and working as a strip club DJ and a pizza deliveryman in West Palm Beach when he became “increasingly obsessive, paranoid and angry” and believed enemies of President Donald Trump were trying to hurt him and other Trump supporters.
Prosecutors say a life sentence is “necessary and appropriate” after Sayoc caused “widespread fear and panic” with his boxes in the days before the 2018 midterm elections. None of the packages exploded.
His targets included Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, several members of Congress, former President Barack Obama and actor Robert De Niro. Devices were also mailed to CNN offices in New York and Atlanta.
U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff will order 57-year-old Sayoc to serve at least 10 years in prison, the mandatory minimum required by his plea to 65 charges, including 16 counts each of using a weapon of mass destruction, interstate transportation of an explosive, threatening interstate communications and illegal mailing of explosives.
Prosecutors say Sayoc’s devices, though not capable of functioning as designed, were still able to explode and were responsible for shutting down parts of several major metropolitan areas, including train stations, schools and postal facilities.
They say he has not fully accepted responsibility and that his claims that his packages were a “hoax” are “simply false.”
“The defendant appears to regret facing potential punishment, but not what he did and the harm that his attack caused,” prosecutors said in court papers. “His large-scale attack triggered massive law enforcement response and crippled parts of several major metropolitan areas. … The defendant terrorized the public and placed thousands of individuals in harm’s way.”
In their pre-sentence arguments for leniency, defense lawyers wrote that Sayoc was suffering from “delusional beliefs” fueled by large doses of steroids when he decided “to try to intimidate and scare Trump’s perceived enemies.”
They urged Rakoff to sentence Sayoc to the mandatory 10 years in prison and one additional month. Sayoc has been housed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan since he was brought to New York after his Oct. 26 arrest. He had been living in a van plastered with Trump stickers and images of Trump opponents with crosshairs over their faces.
“He is sorry for the fear he caused across the country and has drafted personalized letters of apology to each of the victims in this case. He knows what he did was wrong, and he wishes more than anything he could go back in time and act differently,” the lawyers wrote, saying he is still mentally ill and struggling but is redeemable and able to change.
They blamed his actions in part on his use of “an extremely large dose of steroids” that he took to bulk up for his new job at the Ultra strip club. They said the steroids left him feeling invincible and made him “pathologically obsessed” with perceived actions by some Democrats.
Sayoc has said repeatedly that his packages would not have exploded and he never intended to injure anyone. An FBI analysis concluded they would not have worked.
Prosecutors said the explosive materials in Sayoc’s packages put thousands of people in harm’s way, including family members of the victims, U.S. Postal Service workers and law enforcement personnel.
“Put simply, the defendant intended to silence, through harm and fear, those with whom he disagreed, and now he must be incapacitated to protect the public and promote respect for the law,” prosecutors said.