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His lawyers want leniency. But the man who sent bombs to CNN and Democrats should get life behind bars, prosecutors say

Posted at 2:14 AM, Jul 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-23 15:21:51-04

Cesar Sayoc, the man who pleaded guilty to sending pipe bombs to CNN and prominent Democrats, could face anywhere from 121 months to life in prison.

And depending on which side you ask, the Florida man should get either the minimum or maximum punishment.

Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York filed a request Monday asking a federal judge to sentence Sayoc to life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for September 12.

Sayoc sent explosives through the mail over two weeks last October, sparking a nationwide manhunt. None of the devices detonated, and no one was injured.

In March, Sayoc pleaded guilty to 65 felony counts, including using a weapon of mass destruction.

His targets included former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, and major Democratic donors like George Soros and Tom Steyer.

“Put simply, the defendant intended to silence, through harm and fear, those with whom he disagreed, and now he must be incapacitated to protect the public and promote respect for the rule of law,” prosecutors wrote.

But Sayoc’s attorneys asked for the minimum sentence of 121 months, saying “a series of traumatic events pushed Cesar Sayoc further and further into the margins of society.”

The attorneys said Sayoc was abandoned by his father, sexually molested and suffered from an intellectual disability.

A longtime Trump fan

In the defense’s filing for leniency, attorneys said Sayoc was a fan of Donald Trump before he ran for office, listening to his self-help books on tape..

When Trump announced his run for office, Sayoc began following politics and watching Fox News while at the gym.

He began attending rallies and posting his political opinions on social media, where he found a “sense of community that he had been missing for so many years,” his attorneys said.

They said Sayoc grew paranoid, anxious and isolated, latching onto Trump in the months before he sent the bombs.

“He conflated his personal situation with the perceived struggles of Trump supporters across the country, and even the President himself,” the filing reads.

“His paranoia bled into delusion and Mr. Sayoc came to believe that prominent Democrats were actively working to hurt him, other Trump supporters, and the country as a whole.”

The filing also said Sayoc built devices “designed to look like pipe bombs,” as his mental state deteriorated and that he had “no true grasp of the severity of his crimes.”

Letter to the judge

Sayoc wrote a letter to a federal judge in April that explained his obsession with Trump, saying that going to one of his rallies was like using a “new found drug.”

The letter read in part, “the first thing you here (sic) entering Trump rally is we are not going to take it anymore, the forgotten ones, etc.”

He wrote in the letter that he listened to Trump’s self-help CDs, which he says reprogrammed his mind.

Sayoc also detailed his drug abuse, saying he was using steroids and supplements that contributed to his deteriorated mental state.

“I was the most scared time in my life. … Plus I was using heavy amounts of steroids, 274 different supplement and vitamins … I lost my head, steroids altered my growing anger. I made a bad choice taking them to help … I lost control of myself and mental state from them.”

Defense attorneys said in April that they had him psychologically evaluated and plan to submit two reports in connection with his sentencing: one report by a clinical psychiatrist and another one by a psychiatrist with specialized knowledge to explain how his steroid use likely affected his mental health.

“We believe that these two reports will provide the court with ample information about Mr. Sayoc’s mental health,” his attorneys said.

In a separate letter sent earlier in April, Sayoc said he never intended to harm anyone and built the bombs only to scare people.

But prosecutors disputed that notion, citing Sayoc’s use of glass shards, chlorine and explosive powder in his bombs.

“There is no reason to pack fragmentation into an explosive device other than to maximize the likelihood that the bomb will cause injury,” prosecutors wrote.