Wednesday 18 September 2019

Pipe bomb suspect agrees to transfer to New York

Cesar Sayoc is accused of sending improvised explosive devices to numerous Democrats, Trump critics and media outlets.

FBI agents escorting Cesar Sayoc (WPLG-TV via AP)
FBI agents escorting Cesar Sayoc (WPLG-TV via AP)

By Curt Anderson, Associated Press

Pipe bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc will not seek immediate release on bail and has agreed to be transferred to New York to face charges of sending explosive devices to prominent Democrats, critics of Donald Trump and media outlets.

Lawyers for Sayoc said in Miami federal court that it is better if his representatives in New York take the case as soon as possible.

They could still seek a bail hearing in New York, but prosecutors say he should remain jailed, given the magnitude of the charges and the strong evidence against him.

“We wanted to make sure that all of his constitutional rights were preserved,” said lawyer James Benjamin after the hearing. “We feel we’ve done all we can.”

Cesar Sayoc (Broward County Sheriff’s Office/AP)

The timing of Sayoc’s transfer to New York is uncertain. It can happen quickly or take weeks, and is not usually announced ahead of time by the US Marshals Service, Mr Benjamin said. Even defence lawyers are not informed.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” he said. “The government wants to get him up there as soon as they can.”

Sayoc is accused in New York of sending 15 improvised explosive devices to numerous Democrats, Trump critics and media outlets.

He was arrested a week ago outside a south Florida car parts store in a white van in which he had been living, which was covered with stickers of Mr Trump and images of some of the president’s opponents with red crosshairs over their faces.

FBI agents with the van in Plantation, Florida (WPLG-TV via AP)

No bombs exploded and no one was injured, but Sayoc faces nearly 50 years in prison if convicted on five federal charges that were filed in New York because some of the devices were recovered there.

The decision by his lawyers not to seek release on bail came after federal prosecutors released a letter outlining more evidence against him, including DNA linking him to 10 of the explosive devices and fingerprints on two of them.

Other evidence includes online searches Sayoc did on his laptop and mobile phone for addresses and photos of some of his intended targets, which included former president Barack Obama, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, former vice president Joe Biden, California senator Kamala Harris and New Jersey senator Cory Booker. Packages were also mailed to CNN in New York and Atlanta.

The laptop also has a file with the address in Sunrise, Florida, of the office of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

That office was used as the return address on the packages containing the pipe bombs, according to the FBI.

Mr Benjamin said the prosecution letter does not prove anything, and noted that it refers to “possible” DNA matches to Sayoc.

“The word flimsy actually still applies,” he told reporters. “We can’t do anything but speculate now. And it’s too early.”

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