The Filipino American man who pled guilty in March for mailing inoperative pipe bombs to high-profile Democrat leaders and public figures was sentenced on Monday, August 5, to 20 years in prison and five years of supervised release.
In reading the sentence, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff concluded that Cesar Sayoc, 57, made a “conscious choice” to design bombs that would not explode.
“He hated his victims, he wished them no good,” said U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff. “But he was not so lost as to wish them dead, at least not by his own hand.”
Sayoc was charged with 65 felony counts from four sets of charges after he mailed 16 explosive packages to 13 political targets including former President Barack Obama, former Vice President President Joe Biden, and current 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris.
On Monday, Sayoc apologized and told the court, “I am beyond so very sorry for what I did.”
“Now that I am a sober man, I know I was a very sick man. I should have listened to my mother, the love of my life. She told me to get help,” he added.
Other targets of the mailed explosives included public figures like actor Robert Deniro and billionaire George Soros, as well as the CNN offices in Atlanta and New York. A list of over 100 names were also found in Sayoc’s van, which was covered in political images and stickers of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
In pleading guilty in March, Sayoc said that while the devices were “intended to look like pipe bombs,” he had no intention for them to detonate, but was aware of the possibility that they could.
“I wish more than anything I could turn back time and take back what I did,” he said on Monday. “With all my heart and soul, I feel the pain and suffering of these victims and I will be apologizing to them for the rest of my life.”
Seeking to get Sayoc a minimum sentence of 121 months or 10 years, Sayoc’s defense attorneys in the weeks leading up to his sentencing, pointed to a troubled childhood, mental illness, and steroid abuse.
In a 39-page sentencing memo, Sayoc’s attorneys said that a “series of traumatic events” including abandonment by his father and sexual abuse by his Catholic school teacher as a child, pushed Sayoc “further and further into the margins of society” before finding a “sense of ommunity” among ardent Trump supporters.
Assistant Federal Defender Ian Marcus Amelkin again on Monday highlighted Sayoc’s mental health and steroid use as having played a part in Sayoc’s actions and political radicalization.
“We believe that the president’s rhetoric contributed to Mr. Sayoc’s actions in this offense,” said Amelkin.
He said, “It is impossible to separate the political climate and his mental illness when it comes to the slow boil.”
Prosecutors on the other hand, sought a life sentence and highlighted that in addition to planning and mailing the IEDs, real and highly dangerous components were used in making them.
They also pointed to Sayoc’s previous run-ins with the law, including a 2002 conviction for making bomb threats, as justification for seeking a life sentence.
On Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Kim said that Sayoc’s plan was to “deter and chill political activity” and that Sayoc “set out to terrorise people.”
“Politics cannot justify a terrorist attack,” she added.
Though not agreeing to a life sentence, Rakoff described the defense team’s focus on Trump’s and his supporters’ influence as a “sideshow.”
‘What counts is what he did, and what he intended at the time that he did it,” said Rakoff, further describing Sayoc’s actions as “by any measure, horrendous.”
The decision to sentence Sayoc to 20 years as “no more” and “no less” than what he deserved,” said Rakoff.
“While none of the devices exploded, at the very least, they were intended to strike fear and terror into the minds of their victims and to intimidate those victims (mostly prominent political figures) from exercising their freedom,” wrote Rakoff in his opinion.