NEW YORK – The man who sparked a nationwide manhunt by mailing pipe bombs to prominent Democrats was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison.
Cesar Sayoc sent 16 pipe bombs to former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, CNN headquarters in Manhattan, actor Robert De Niro and others while in the throes of paranoid delusions fueled by Trump’s conspiracy theories.
Nicknamed the “MAGA bomber,” Sayoc faced a maximum sentence of life in prison for 65 counts relating to the spree. Prosecutors said he was responsible for a “massive law enforcement response (that) crippled parts of several major metropolitan areas.”
His sentencing came as Trump faced wide criticism for emboldening white supremacists after a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas.
“The defendant contemplated violence for years, planned his attack over the course of several months, and mailed 16 IEDs to 13 Victims around the country – while enjoying media coverage of the mass panic and fear he created,” prosecutors wrote.
Sayoc’s lawyers had argued he was a mentally ill outcast who became obsessed with Trump. The Florida man living in a van covered in stickers of Trump’s enemies in crosshairs damaged his brain with a serious steroid habit, they wrote.
By the time of the 2018 congressional midterm elections, Sayoc was obsessed with Trump’s conspiracy theories. Sayoc believed he was being hunted by Democrats.
“In this darkness, Mr. Sayoc found light in Donald J. Trump,” Sayoc’s federal defenders wrote.
“He truly believed wild conspiracy theories he read on the internet, many of which vilified Democrats and spread rumors that Trump supporters were in danger because of them. He heard it from the President of the United States. A man with whom he felt he had a deep personal connection.”
Key to Sayoc’s defense was his claim that he never intended for the bombs to actually explode.
“I am not a chemist or scientist. It was just to scare and intimidate,” Sayoc wrote in one of several letters to Judge Jed Rakoff.
An FBI analysis confirmed the bombs were duds.
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