What to Know
- The Florida man who mailed 16 packages of inoperative pipe bombs to 13 famous Democrats and CNN was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday
- Prosecutors say a life sentence is "necessary and appropriate" after Cesar Sayoc caused "widespread fear and panic" with his boxes
- None of the packages exploded; His targets included Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden and several members of Congress
A Florida amateur body builder who admitted sending inoperative pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and CNN has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff sentenced Cesar Sayoc after he pleaded guilty to explosives charges for mailing 16 pipe bombs days before the midterm elections last fall.
The one-time stripper and pizza delivery man from Aventura, Florida, apologized to his victims, saying he is "so very sorry for what I did."
Sayoc says he never intended for the explosives to work when he mailed them to Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama, actor Robert De Niro and several members of Congress.
Defense lawyers for Sayoc urged leniency from the judge, saying that Sayoc was burdened as a child by severe learning disabilities, was living alone in a cramped van and working as a strip club DJ and a pizza deliveryman in West Palm Beach when he became "increasingly obsessive, paranoid and angry" and believed enemies of President Donald Trump were trying to hurt him and other Trump supporters.
Prosecutors say a life sentence is "necessary and appropriate" after Sayoc caused "widespread fear and panic" with his boxes in the days before the 2018 midterm elections. None of the packages exploded.
His targets included Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, several members of Congress, former President Barack Obama and actor Robert De Niro. Devices were also mailed to CNN offices in New York and Atlanta.
Sayoc previously pleaded guilty to 65 charges, including 16 counts each of using a weapon of mass destruction, interstate transportation of an explosive, threatening interstate communications and illegal mailing of explosives.
Prosecutors say Sayoc's devices, though not capable of functioning as designed, were still able to explode and were responsible for shutting down parts of several major metropolitan areas, including train stations, schools and postal facilities.
They say he has not fully accepted responsibility and that his claims that his packages were a "hoax" are "simply false."
In their pre-sentence arguments for leniency, defense lawyers wrote that Sayoc was suffering from "delusional beliefs" fueled by large doses of steroids when he decided "to try to intimidate and scare Trump's perceived enemies."
They urged Rakoff to sentence Sayoc to the mandatory 10 years in prison and one additional month. Sayoc has been housed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan since he was brought to New York after his Oct. 26 arrest. He had been living in a van plastered with Trump stickers and images of Trump opponents with crosshairs over their faces.
"He is sorry for the fear he caused across the country and has drafted personalized letters of apology to each of the victims in this case. He knows what he did was wrong, and he wishes more than anything he could go back in time and act differently," the lawyers wrote, saying he is still mentally ill and struggling but is redeemable and able to change.
Sayoc has said repeatedly that his packages would not have exploded and he never intended to injure anyone. An FBI analysis concluded they would not have worked.
Prosecutors said the explosive materials in Sayoc's packages put thousands of people in harm's way, including family members of the victims, U.S. Postal Service workers and law enforcement personnel.
"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 law," prosecutors said.