24 March, 2019
The Florida man accused of sending mail bombs to CNN offices and prominent Democrats pleaded guilty on Thursday in Manhattan federal court to 65 felony counts, including using weapons of mass destruction in an attempted domestic terrorist attack.
Sayoc listed the intended recipients of his packages, including former President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, billionaire investor and Democratic donor George Soros, former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan, actor Robert DeNiro.
The bombs began turning up weeks before the hotly contested midterms, contributing to an already tense political environment.
Cesar Altieri Sayoc, 56, was arrested in late October and was scheduled to go on trial in July on charges related to using weapons of mass destruction and transporting explosives.
When he was arrested in Florida, Sayoc was living out of a white van plastered with stickers praising Trump and attacking the media.
"Thankfully no one was hurt by these unsafe devices, but his actions left an air of fear and divisiveness in their wake", Geoffrey S. Berman, the USA attorney in Manhattan, said after the plea.
"Did you intend that they would, in fact, explode?" the judge said. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped a charge that carried a mandatory life sentence.
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"What would prevent powder from fireworks from exploding?"
"I know these actions were wrong and I am sorry", he told the court, in a barely audible, choked voice.
The first of the bombs was discovered October 22 in a mailbox at an estate in New York City's northern suburbs owned by the billionaire George Soros, a liberal political activist and frequent subject of conspiracy theories.
Wayne Williams was given two life sentences in 1982 for convictions in the deaths of two adults, thought to be among 29 black children and young adults - mostly boys - who were killed.
A device addressed to the Clintons was discovered the next day, followed a day later by a slew of bombs found at the homes or offices of prominent Democrats.
Similar pipe bomb packages that were en route to the Clintons and the Obamas yesterday (October 24), were intercepted in Delaware and NY on Thursday after they were sent to former Vice President Joe Biden and Robert De Niro.
Over several days, investigators tracked the packages to a mail center in Opa-locka.
Federal Bureau of Investigation officials alleged Sayoc mailed improvised explosive devices to Obama; Clinton; former Vice President Joe Biden; former Attorney General Eric Holder; U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters; U.S. Sens. "Our democracy will simply not survive if our political discourse includes sending bombs to those we disagree with".