NEW YORK – The Florida man who posted letter bombs to former President Barack Obama and others he saw as enemies of Donald Trump was sentenced on Monday in US federal court to 20 years in prison.
Cesar Sayoc, 57, pleaded guilty in March to 65 counts on charges including using weapons of mass destruction and the prosecution asked US District Judge Jed Rakoff to put the “domestic terrorist” behind bars for the rest of his life.
Defense attorneys urged the judge to give their client the minimum sentence, 10 years, arguing that “a series of traumatic events pushed Cesar Sayoc further and further into the margins of society.”
Sayoc’s lawyers pointed out that as boy, he was abandoned by his father as a boy and sexually abused by a teacher at his Catholic school.
In adulthood, Sayoc fell into poverty after the 2008 economic crisis and “became increasingly estranged from his family and dependent on drugs, particularly steroids,” the defense team said in their brief.
“No one can pretend this is not, in real terms, substantial punishment,” Rakoff said after pronouncing sentence, “But in the Court’s view, it is no more, and no less, than he deserves.”
Even so, the judge said he took account that Sayoc chose to make the bombs inoperative and that his intent was to intimidate rather than to kill.
“I am beyond so very sorry for what I did,” Sayoc told the court Monday before Rakoff passed sentence.
“Now that I am a sober man, I know that I was a very sick man,” Sayoc said. “I wish more than anything that I could turn back time and take back what I did ... I feel the pain and suffering of these victims.”
Sayoc’s lawyers attributed his actions to an “infatuation” with Trump that began during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“Mr. Sayoc was enthusiastic and credulous. Because of his cognitive limitations and mental illness, he believed outlandish reports in the news and on social media, which increasingly made him unhinged,” the attorneys wrote.
“He became obsessed with ‘attacks’ from those he perceived as Trump’s enemies. He believed stories shared on Facebook that Trump supporters were being beaten in the streets. He came to believe that he was being personally targeted for supporting Trump,” they said.
Sayoc was apprehended in a shopping center in Plantation, Florida, northwest of Miami, on Oct. 26, 2018, after 12 people received suspicious packages containing suspected explosives.
The first parcel went to the New York State home of billionaire philanthropist George Soros, a known Democratic donor, followed by similar packages to Obama, Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, former CIA Director John Brennan and CNN’s New York offices.
Other recipients were Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker – both now candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination – and actor Robert De Niro.