NEW YORK (AP) — An Islamic extremist was given 10 life sentences and another 260 years in prison on Wednesday for killing eight people with a truck on a bike path in Manhattan and severely injuring 18 others.
“The conduct in this case is among the worst if not the worst I’ve ever seen,” said U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick. He cited the unrepentant nature of Sayfullo Saipov, who, given a chance to speak, said the tears of victims and family members in the courtroom were small compared to the blood and tears that those in the Islamic faith have suffered.
Saipov’s sentence came after a jury in March rejected the death penalty for the Uzbekistan citizen and onetime New Jersey resident, leaving him with a mandatory life prison sentence for his Oct. 31, 2017 slaughter of tourists and New Yorkers.
Relatives of eight people killed in the Halloween terror attack spoke sometimes through tears during the sentencing, describing their lingering pain and sometimes directly addressing the man convicted in the deaths.
Frank Decadt, father of victim Ann-Laure Decadt, told Saipov that he hoped that “one day you will understand the extent of horror you have inflicted on so many people.”
Marion Van Reeth, who lost her legs in the attack, sat before Saipov in her wheelchair, telling him: “I will never be able to walk like you can.”
As Saipov kept his head drooped and eyes lowered, listening to a translation of the proceedings through earphones, she said: “I have a question for you. After all this time in prison, are you still convinced that your criminal acts against innocent people was the right thing?”
Like others, she expressed hope that someday Saipov would see that his terrorist act was wrong.
Prosecutors urged Broderick to impose a sentence of eight consecutive life sentences — one for each death — and an additional 260 years in prison, according to a presentence submission.
“Saipov is an unabashed terrorist — a proud murderer who deserves no leniency and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” prosecutors wrote.
The judge followed the prosecution’s recommendation, imposing eight consecutive life sentences and two to run concurrently, though the practical effect of a single life sentence is the same since there is no parole.
Gabriela Pabla Pereya, the wife of Ariel Erlij, who was among five men from Argentina killed during a bike ride as they celebrated the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation, delivered the shortest statement during the sentencing hearing. She called Saipov a coward and said if he truly wanted God “to accept and love you, go kill yourself.”
Monica Missio, whose son, Nicholas Cleves was killed, told Saipov his death “has completely destroyed my life.”
Saipov, 35, left a path of destruction behind him with his terrorist attack.
Saipov was shot by a police officer and immediately taken into custody after emerging from his truck shouting “God is great” in Arabic and waving paintball and pellet guns in the air.
Prosecutors said he smiled as he asked FBI agents who questioned him in a hospital room after the attack if they could hang an Islamic State group flag on the walls.
At his trial, his family members urged a life sentence, saying they hoped he would realize what he had done and express remorse. They said they wanted him to return to the passive person they remembered him as before he grew obsessed with online propaganda posted by the Islamic State militant group.
A former long-haul truck driver, Saipov moved legally to the U.S. from Uzbekistan in 2010 and lived in Ohio and Florida before joining his family in Paterson, New Jersey.
His lawyer, David Patton, told jurors that his actions were “senseless, horrific, and there’s no justification for them.”