Federal prosecutors in New York on Friday secured a 30-count indictment against the man accused of mailing possible package bombs to prominent Democrats and Trump critics across the country, bringing charges that are both more severe and more numerous than those he previously faced.
Cesar Sayoc, 56, who had been living out of a van in Aventura, Florida, faces a possible sentence of life in prison based on the charges, including five counts of using a weapon of mass destruction, five counts of illegal mailing of explosives, and five counts of threatening interstate communications and other similar allegations. His next court appearance was not immediately scheduled.
An attorney for Sayoc did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Authorities have said they believe Sayoc is responsible for mailing 16 possible explosive devices to people considered foes of the president, including former president Barack Obama, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, former attorney general Eric Holder, liberal billionaire George Soros and others. Sayoc was arrested last month and charged with five counts. Even after he was in taken into custody, authorities continued to recover packages they believe he sent through the mail.
None of the devices exploded. FBI Director Christopher Wray has said they were not hoaxes.
Family members and associates of Sayoc have said he was troubled man who struggled with mental health problems and lied as he sought to find an identity with which he was comfortable. He worked in strip clubs, dabbled in body building and had frequent run-ins with the law, including a 2002 incident in which he threatened to blow up a Florida utility company.
As far back as 2015, he took an interest in Trump – attending campaign events and posting on social media his support for the then-presidential candidate. Sayoc covered the van he lived in with pro-Trump stickers and decals of the president’s opponents with targets over their faces.
Prosecutors have alleged previously that Sayoc began planning to send the possible bombs – composed of six inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring and what authorities termed “energetic,” or possibly explosive, material – as far back as July. The Internet search history on his phone showed he searched “hilary Clinton hime [sic] address” on July 15 and “address Debbie wauserman Shultz” on July 26.
Each of the packages listed Shultz – a likely misspelling of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. – in the return address. Sayoc searched throughout September and October for the addresses of others – including Obama, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and major Democratic donor Tom Steyer, prosecutors have said.
The FBI connected Sayoc to the devices via fingerprints and a possible DNA match, authorities have said. His attorney in Florida, where he first appeared in court, has called the evidence against Sayoc “flimsy.”
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Matt Zapotosky