Domestic terrorist Cesar Sayoc faces sentencing today for mail bombs to:
*Robert De Niro
Covering it live
Prosecutors have described Sayoc’s spree of mail bombs as a “two-week terrorist attack.”
Sayoc’s attorneys recently said their client “found light in Donald J. Trump.”
ICYMI, @CourthouseNews https://www.courthousenews.com/attorneys-say-serial-mail-bomber-found-light-in-donald-j-trump/ …
Sayoc sent mail bombs to two CNN newsrooms and has said: “The Press is enemy,” echoing Trump’s slogan the “enemy of the people.”
In their last brief, prosecutors highlighted Sayoc’s misspelled, racist slurs in Facebook rants against Obama, Waters, and Holder.
The proceedings will start at 2pm, and I will tweet out context in the lead-up to it.
A reader reacts to my publishing a list of the recipients of Sayoc’s bombs.
Thanks for reporting, all.
Returning to the feed soon.
Almost 30 minutes to the sentencing.
In their most recent brief, prosecutors responded to Sayoc's claim that these were "hoax" bombs by highlighting his admissions to the contrary.
"He placed thousands at risk," Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Adelsberg wrote.
The prosecution's reply brief is here:
It responds to the defendant's brief here:
The El Paso massacre is being investigated as a domestic terrorist attack in connection with an anti-immigrant screed on 8chan.
The Gilroy Garlic shooter recommended a 19th century proto-fascist tract.
Dayton's police chief cautioned against speculating on motive.
My newsletter this week previewed today's sentencing. Also: More on Epstein, the DNC's defeat in its election-hack suit, and other news.
Subscribe here: https://tinyletter.com/KlasfeldReports
Also be sure to subscribe to @CourthouseNews' "Nightly Brief."
The sentencing begins.
Attorneys introduce themselves:
AUSAs: Jane Kim, Emil Bove, and Sam Adelsberg
(Explosive experts also on-hand to answer questions)
Defense attorneys: Ian Marcus, Sarah Baumgartel, Amy Gallicchio
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff notes the sentencing guidelines call for life imprisonment plus 10 years.
He quips he "hopes the angels are listening" to the U.S. sentencing guidelines.
(The judge also notes he's not bound by them.)
FBI bomb technician Kevin D. Finnerty clarifies his pre-sentencing report:
"It would not have worked with the design the individual put in those bombs," he said.
Pressed by Judge Rakoff about whether there was a remote chance of detonation, he adds: "Yes, there is a remote chance," from mishandling.
Finnerty says that the bombs were handled by robots at the FBI's Quantico laboratory.
Dale Mann, another expert, sworn in for testimony.
Judge Rakoff asks him whether he agrees that the bombs had a remote chance of explosion.
"Only in the broadest sense," Mann replies.
Rakoff asks about narrow sense.
Mann describes "inert materials and energetic material," and adds that the ones in these bombs were "negligibly reactive."
Psychiatric experts sworn in, starting with Harrison G. Pope.
Rakoff, who received his J.D. at Harvard, notes that Pope is a fellow alum.
"But I will disregard that," he adds, to laughter in the court.
They move onto Sayoc's steroid use.
Pope: "The nature of the effects that he described has a characteristic, stereotypical quality that I have witnessed numerous times," from hard steroid use.
Neither party questions the witness.
One last witness.
Dr. First opines that Sayoc had from a "severe" disorder marked by predisposition to be paranoid, disconnected and impulsive.
"If he weren't taking steroids, this probably wouldn't have happened," First said, noting he's always been untreated.
Asked by a defense attorney whether he could be safely released if not sentenced to life, First says that he could if he could be treated.
Sayoc's counsel Ian Marcus notes his family is in the courtroom and calls for a light sentence.
Rakoff interjects: "He created, did he not, a climate of fear and terror going on day after day for several weeks?"
Rakoff respond to the defense argument that the 57-year-old won't be a threat after he leaves prison.
"I'm not sure I understand the argument about age," he says, noting he committed these crimes well into his 50s.
Sayoc's counsel responds: No matter what, he's going to be in prison into his late 60s.
He adds social science supports that threat declines with age, as recognized by the First Step Act.
Rakoff: "Forgive me, but that does not seem to fit his profile," referring to Sayoc.
Marcus elaborates on his client's prior arrest in 2002 for threatening to blow up an energy company.
Everything in his life prior to this offense resulted in no jail time, the attorney noted. He never even needed to admit to his guilt in these offenses.
Sayoc's defense counsel:
After prior incidents, people said of Sayoc: "He's simple-minded. He's naive."
He was more vulnerable when his child left the family when he was young.
He was sexually abused over a year.
Started steroids at age 15, "off-the-chart" young.
Rakoff: "I thought people didn't start using steroids until they received a contract to play professional sports."
Marcus says that Sayoc obsessively read self-help books.
"In particular, the books with Donald Trump really resonated with him," he said.
Marcus on his client Sayoc:
"He's using these self-hope books to cope," and he becomes "obsessed" with Donald Trump, buying his branded suits and ties.
He's reading these conspiracy theories.
He's exposed to a lot of hateful ideas, conspiracy theories, misinformation.
"He slowly became deranged by it," Marcus says, referring to Sayoc's response by the misinformation.
Marcus: "We believe that the President's rhetoric contributed to Mr. Sayoc's actions in this offense."
Marcus says he understands why the DOJ has avoided this topic, noting that they report to the executive branch.
Rakoff cautions about linking the two: "Correlation and causation are two very different things as the cliche would have it, and very correctly so."
Marcus responds that the president's rhetoric resonated with Sayoc deeply because of his client's mental illness.
Rakoff presses the attorney on the other sentencing considerations beyond motive, like deterrance: "Assuming everything you just said, how far does it go?"
Marcus responds that "10 years is not a slap on the wrist."
Sayoc's attorney on the bombs: "It was scary, and this was serious," but nobody was killed and injured and they wouldn't have detonated.
He says if you get a zero on a test, you're trying to get it wrong.
Rakoff: "You send an inoperative pipe bomb to various, high-level political figures, intending... that they will react with great fear, and it will be punishment for their 'wrongful' political views or deterrent for future 'wrongful' political views."
Rakoff: He tried to send a "torrent of fear" across the country.
Marcus: "He wasn't thinking rationally." He was a man sitting in a van living alone.
Marcus argues his client wasn't seeing clearly, and he's not defending his acts anymore.
"He is really really sorry and really really afraid," he says.
"The tears of regret flowed freely," he adds, calling his client a "different person" today.
Marcus on Sayoc:
"This is a man who is willing to get help. He wants it. He needs it."
"So altogether we're asking for a 121 months. The guidelines are not appropriate here."
Prosecutors are now up:
AUSA Jane Kim argues for the government.
She starts going through a timeline listing all of the mailings and receipts of the bombs, with Sayoc "reveling" in the national headlines from the attacks.
Going through the 16 pipe bombs recovered across the country, Kim says: "The defendant's campaign of terror was national in reach and extremely serious."
She notes that the defendant's request amounts to less than a year in prison for each of these pipe bombs.
She also notes that if Sayoc intended them to be "hoax" bombs, he could have packed them with sand instead of glass and explosive materials.
"Even if the likelihood of explosions were remote, these IEDs were still dangerous," she says.
Rakoff presses the prosecutor on testimony by the government expert earlier in the hearing that these were not likely to detonate.
Rakoff acknowledges that the materials in these bombs were obviously not packed "lovingly," but points to other expert testimony that firecrackers and chlorine mailed commercially across the country.
He presses on Sayoc's intent.
Kim: In 2016, he starts researching how to make mail bombs how to make pipe bombs.
Rakoff interjects that this foreknowledge may suggest he knew how to make a working pipe bomb.
Kim: "These may not have been the most sophisticated bombs, but they did pose a danger," including the postal workers.
"This was not a whim or reaction in one moment in time," she says, referring to it as a longtime record of hate.
Rakoff: "I think on the one hand you're right that like 99.9% of the defendants who appear before me, he has excuses and justifications for aspects of his conduct."
"On the other hand, I'm not particularly impressed by the defense arguments that he's now incredibly remorseful."
Kim: "Politics cannot justify a terrorist attack." Politics here can't justify 16 bombs.
Rakoff calls the issue a "sideshow."
They move on.
Kim: It's important for this court to send a message to the public that this sort of conduct is unacceptable.
Rakoff notes that's the principle of general deterrence and presses on "specific deterrence," i.e. would Sayoc be safer if treated.
Kim: "There are many, many people in this country who use steroids."
This is the first one, she notes, that she is aware of where one commits "a terrorist attack using 16 IEDs."
AUSA says Sayoc "set out to terrorize people" and "set out to silence people" who were government officials or former government officials.
"We think that is extremely harmful to the public and to the country," she says, adding it warrants a life sentence.
Instead of the defense replying to government argument, Dr. Pope returns to the stand to rebut the prosecutor's remarks on steroid use.
Rakoff questions him.
Very brief. No new ground.
Sayoc's up now.
Sayoc: "I am beyond so very sorry for what I did. I am forever thankful to my superwoman mother."
He goes through a list of other family members.
"I am so very sorry for what I did and what I put you through."
Sayoc: I prepared my speech in writing because I knew that I would be emotional... I had a very hard time in life after my dad left me... and after being sexually assaulted at a Catholic boarding school.
Sayoc: "Now that I am a sober man, I know that I am a very sick man... I know I should have listened to my mother, the love of my life."
"I wish more than anything that I could turn back time and take back what I did."
"I feel the pain and suffering of these victims."
Judge Rakoff takes a 10 minute recess before pronouncing the sentence.
Rakoff says he'll release a written decision as well.
He begins: "In a nation like the United States, that rightly places such a strong value on individual autonomy."
Rakoff notes that the federal guidelines call for a sentence that's "sufficient but no greater than necessary."
"If any of us had the misfortune to face sentence, who would we want to be sentenced by?" Rakoff asks, a judge looking at generalities or the specific facts.
Rakoff: The bombs were designed to strike "fear and terror" in the hearts of the victims.
Rakoff: In at least three of the victims -- Biden, Clinton and Soros -- the bombs were sent to personal residences, sending the message that no one was safe.
"Just, so who is the human being who perpetrated these horrific acts of domestic terrorism?"
Rakoff notes Sayoc was abandoned by his father, sexually abused by his teachers.
He later became a petty thief and made a verbal threat to his energy company, an act the judge notes in hindsight may be viewed as "a portent for worse to come."
Rakoff: Sayoc became "infatuated" in Trump.
Though not legally insane, Sayoc became "obsessive" and "paranoic," he notes.
"Does any of this matter?" Rakoff asks, referring to "unfortunate circumstances" leading up to his crimes.
"Yes," he says, "within modest limits."
Rakoff: A defendant's intent is as important as his actions.
"That does not mean that we can ignore for one moment a defendant's actions and its consequences."
Rakoff: "The issue that's most in dispute in this case" is Sayoc's intent, that is, did he intend to kill and/or maim his targets, even if the chance was remote.
Was Sayoc a "careless or unskilled pipe bomber," or try to intimidate them?
Rakoff finds that Sayoc "was fully capable of concocting pipe bombs capable of exploding," and since he didn't, Rakoff believes that was "in the court's view, a conscious choice."
BREAKING: 20 years imprisonment.
Rakoff calls that sentence "no more" and "no less" than what he deserves.
Sayoc's counsel ask for him to incarcerated in Florida and be enrolled in residential drug treatment.
Rakoff agrees to recommending the former, not the latter, saying he won't make his sentence any lighter.
The sentencing is over. Look out for the story soon @CourthouseNews.
Some context for Rakoff going far below sentencing guidelines:
Rakoff is one of SDNY's most vocal opponents of mass incarceration in the United States, even as he emphasized repeatedly throughout his sentencing that Sayoc had been engaging in terrorism. https://www.businessinsider.com/judge-jed-rakoffs-simple-explanation-for-americas-mass-incarceration-2015-4 …
DEVELOPING: Domestic Terrorist Cesar Sayoc Gets 20 Years for Mail-Bomb Spree, at @CourthouseNews
Updates to come.
Final updates coming up soon.
Just a note: I've been interviewing academics and researchers on U.S. domestic terrorism, particularly attacks linked to white supremacy. More on that after the dust settles on the live courtroom coverage.
Probably not today.
You can follow @KlasfeldReports.
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