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Friday 22 November 2019

US bomb suspect is fervent Trump supporter with history of arrests

Cesar Sayoc has an extensive record of past arrests, including a stint served on probation for making a bomb threat.

Cesar Sayoc has been arrested (Broward County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
Cesar Sayoc has been arrested (Broward County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

By Michael Biesecker and Stephen Braun, Associated Press

The Florida man in custody in connection with the package bombs sent to Democratic political figures is a fervent supporter of US President Donald Trump.

Cesar Sayoc, 56, of Aventura, has an extensive record of past arrests, including a stint served on probation for making a bomb threat.

Sayoc is an amateur bodybuilder and businessman whose online CV describes him as a promoter and booking agent for male stripper and burlesque shows.

He was born in New York City and attended college in North Carolina before moving to the Miami suburbs in the late 1980s.

He is a registered Republican with social media accounts containing memes supporting Mr Trump, denigrating Democrats, and promoting conspiracy theories about George Soros, the billionaire political donor who was the first targeted this week by a package bomb.

At the auto parts store in Plantation, Florida, where Sayoc was taken into custody, authorities towed away a white van covered with stickers supporting Mr Trump and criticising media outlets that included CNN, the news channel also targeted by a mail bomb this week.

An FBI agent and detective talk to an employee at the auto parts store in Plantation where authorities took Cesar Sayoc into custody (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Court records in Florida show that Sayoc was arrested in 2002 and served a year of probation for a felony charge of threatening to throw or place a bomb.

Court records available online did not immediately provide further details about the case, but his lawyer in the case told The Associated Press it involved a heated conversation with a Florida utility representative.

Ronald Lowy, a Miami lawyer, said Sayoc became frustrated about a lack of service and told a Florida Power and Light employee “something to the effect that you’re not taking care of my problem and I bet you would if I threw a bomb at you”.

Mr Lowy said Sayoc showed no ability at the time to back up his threat with any bomb-making expertise.

The lawyer went on to describe Sayoc as “a confused man who had trouble controlling his emotions”.

Mr Lowy said Sayoc displayed no political leanings at the time except for plastering a vehicle he owned with Native American signs. Mr Lowy said Sayoc told him his father was Native American.

Sayoc was also convicted in 2014 for grand theft and misdemeanour theft of less than 300 US dollars, and in 2013 for battery.

The van that federal agents are investigating in connection with package bombs that were sent to high-profile critics of President Donald Trump (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

In 2004, he faced several felony charges for unlawful possession of a synthetic anabolic steroid often used to help build muscles. He also had several arrests for theft in the 1990s and faced a felony charge for obtaining fraudulent refunds and a misdemeanour count of tampering with physical evidence.

Mr Lowy said he recalled that Sayoc also had a run-in with authorities over possession of steroids and another case in Broward County where he was charged with possessing a fake driver’s licence after altering his birth date to make him appear younger.

“His mind doesn’t seem to operate like most people’s,” Mr Lowy said. “It shows in his anger, his emotion and his behaviour.”

A Twitter account that appears to belong to Sayoc, @hardrock2016, includes memes denouncing Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, including a photo of Mr Soros made to look like he is holding a puppet that resembles Mr Gillum.

Other posts called Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg “fake phony”. He posted memes repeatedly attacking Mr Hogg in July. He also called governor Rick Scott “greatest Governor Ever” in a posting that shows the Republican governor alongside Mr Trump.

In June, he praised Mr Trump in a birthday message saying: “Happy Birthday President Donald J. Trump the greatest result President ever.”

PA Media

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