Florida man pleads guilty to mailing bombs to Trump foes

Cesar Sayoc, 57, sobbed as he entered the plea

A Florida man pleaded guilty Thursday to sending pipe bombs to CNN and prominent critics of President Donald Trump in a wave of attacks that harmed no one but spread fear of political violence across the U.S. for days leading up to last fall’s midterm elections.

Cesar Sayoc, 57, sobbed as he entered the plea before a federal judge in New York.

“I’m extremely sorry,” he said, adding that he never intended for the devices to explode.

He could get life in prison at sentencing Sept. 12 on 65 counts, including using weapons of mass destruction and mailing explosives with intent to kill. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped a charge that carried a mandatory life sentence.

READ MORE: Court case begins for Florida man accused of sending pipe bombs to Trump critics

Sayoc sent rudimentary bombs — none of which detonated — to 16 targets, including Bill and 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.

The bombs began turning up weeks before the hotly contested midterms, contributing to an already tense political environment.

Sayoc was arrested in late October at a Florida auto parts store. He had been living in a van plastered with Trump stickers and images of Trump opponents with crosshairs over their faces.

On Thursday, he told the judge he made objects designed to look like pipe bombs and filled them with explosive powder from fireworks.

“Did you intend they would explode?” U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff asked.

“No, sir,” Sayoc said.

“What would prevent powder from fireworks from exploding?” Rakoff asked.

“I was aware of the risk they would explode,” Sayoc said.

The first of the bombs was discovered Oct. 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.

A device addressed to the Clintons was discovered the following day, followed a day later by a slew of bombs found at the homes or offices of prominent Democrats. One, addressed to former CIA director John Brennan, was sent to CNN in New York.

Others targeted included California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

READ MORE: Florida man charged after weeklong bomb-package scare

Over several days, investigators tracked the packages to a mail centre in Florida. Prosecutors said the evidence against Sayoc included DNA that linked him to 10 of the devices and fingerprints on two of them.

Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health chief medical health officer, immunizes Victoria Schmid, Island Health’s vice-president of pandemic planning. (Submitted photo)
Island Health advising people to get a flu shot

People looking to get vaccinated should book an appointment, says Island Health

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Second hospital long overdue

Tertiary model would be best served by a completely new design, says letter writer

Artist’s rendering of a townhouse development approved for the south end of Ninth Street. (Straight Street Design image)
Townhouse development on Ninth Street gets nod from Nanaimo city council

Development permit issued for 47-unit project near Parkway Trail

City of Nanaimo flag. (News Bulletin file photo)
Clean B.C., City of Nanaimo offer rebates for homeowners to update heating systems

New rebate program offered for renovations installed until March 31

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Jordan Jay Ward, 20, is wanted Canada-wide for manslaughter. (Calgary police photo)
RCMP: Suspicious man seen in Parksville woods resembled manslaughter suspect

Hikers say he resembled Jordan Jay Ward, wanted Canada-wide

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read