November 2, 2018 / 10:10 AM / 13 days ago

U.S. bomb packages suspect to face charges in New York

MIAMI, Fla. (Reuters) - The 56-year-old Florida man accused of mailing 15 pipe bombs to top Democrats and other high-profile critics of President Donald Trump agreed in a Miami court to be transferred to New York state to face charges and waived his right to a bail hearing in Florida.

FILE PHOTO: Cesar Altieri Sayoc appears in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. in this August 31, 2005 handout booking photo obtained by Reuters October 26, 2018. File Photo

Cesar Sayoc, a former male stripper, pizza delivery driver and disc jockey, faces five charges and a maximum penalty of 48 years in prison for allegedly sending the bombs to targets including former President Barack Obama, ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, other prominent political figures and CNN.

Sayoc appeared Friday shackled and wearing a beige jumpsuit with his hair in a ponytail. He agreed to be transferred to New York for a detention hearing where the case will be prosecuted. It was unclear when and how Sayoc will be transferred.

The mailed bombs and the massacre of 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue last Saturday took place against the backdrop of highly charged political campaigns. In the Nov. 6 midterm elections, voters will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Congress, currently controlled by Trump’s Republican Party.

Sayoc, who lived in a white van festooned with right-wing political images supporting Trump and lambasting his critics, will be transferred to New York to face charges. Details on when he will be transferred were not immediately known.

Sayoc faces five charges and a maximum penalty of 48 years in prison.

Prosecutors said prior to Friday’s hearing that more charges were likely.

Investigators have also said they had evidence that Sayoc began planning his attacks in July. Sayoc was arrested last Friday at an auto parts store in suburban Fort Lauderdale.

In comments to reporters after the hearing, Sayoc’s defence team stood by their claims that the government’s evidence was “flimsy” and that both DNA and fingerprints gathered during the investigation, which have been attributed to Sayoc, would not hold up in court.

“No government document or allegation at this point has confirmed there’s DNA,” said Jamie Benjamin, one of Sayoc’s Florida attorneys.

No one has been injured, but FBI investigators have said that at least some of the pipe bombs could have caused great harm.

“The evidence of the defendant’s terror campaign is still being collected but is already overwhelming,” wrote Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a letter to the Miami court dated Tuesday.

Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Editing by David Gregorio and Jeffrey Benkoe

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