Good afternoon from New York.
The hearing of #MAGABomber Cesar Sayoc is about to begin. Sayoc is trying to walk back his guilty pleas from March, when he admitted that he knew the 16 pipe bombs he mailed could have hurt people.
Previously: https://www.courthousenews.com/magabomber-cesar-sayoc-pleads-guilty-to-65-counts/ …
Sayoc admits that he mailed the packages, but in two handwritten messages from jail, he now disputes this statement he made: "I was aware of the risk that it would explode."
Pictured: His scrawled edits rewriting what he said.
I'll be covering this hearing live.
The hearing begins. The attorneys identify themselves.
Judge Rakoff says that Sayoc sent a third letter, which has not yet been docketed.
"I think the immediate questions is whether we need to vacate his plea," Rakoff said.
AUSA says the letters should be treated as a request to vacate his plea.
Sayoc's counsel: It is our understanding that Mr. Sayoc is not asking to have his plea vacated.
Rakoff: Regardless of who his counsel is, am I required to vacate his plea?
Sayoc's counsel contends that none of his guilty pleas require him to have an intent to harm people.
Judge Rakoff reads from the statutes; one batch includes an "intent to kill or injury property."
In typical droll fashion, Rakoff wonders how Sayoc could have an intent to injure property and not kill or injure people.
He asks whether the concept is "The thing would explode, but by the grace of God" people would be spared.
Rakoff explains to Sayoc that his letters are part of the public record and explains the Miranda warnings that implies.
Again, Sayoc is barely audible.
Q: You knew, didn't you, if those exploded or caught fire or in any way .. that could have injured people or property?
A: Yes, sir.
Sayoc adds that his intent was to "scare and intimidate."
Rakoff asks the government: "In light of those statements, can the plea stand?"
Rakoff asks Sayoc whether he stands by his original allocution. Sayoc confirms yes.
Considering that Sayoc agrees that the bombs could have injured people or property - whatever their intent - and stands by his original allocution, all of the parties agree that the plea can stand.
AUSA reveals that the FBI made a roughly 100-page report finding that the pipe bombs could have exploded.
The parties will argue the likelihood of that outcome at sentencing.
Rakoff asks whether he still believes, as he wrote in his letters, that his attorneys pressured him to make statements.
"No, your honor, I just felt, just rushed.”
Rakoff asks Sayoc whether he wants to keep his attorneys.
A: “Yes, Your Honor.”
Rakoff indicates that Sayoc's third, as-of-yet undocketed letter may contain Sayoc's medical information.
"My practice is to limit redactions" except for anything that absolutely should be, he notes.
Sayoc's counsel asks to fast-track sentencing to Aug. 5, bumped up from an original date of Sept. 12.
Proceedings adjourned. Story ahead at @CourthouseNews
One more thing: There's a big qualifier on that FBI finding about the bombs.
"**If properly assembled and initiated,** they could have exploded."
Long story short: The so-called #MAGABomber walked back his walkback, and the shaky plea agreement that he struck last month has been solidified.
My latest, @CourthouseNews https://www.courthousenews.com/admitted-magabomber-cant-take-back-guilty-plea/ …
You can follow @KlasfeldReports.
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