By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI (Reuters) – A man accused of mailing 14 pipe bombs to prominent critics of U.S. President Donald Trump was ordered held without bail on Monday, and authorities intercepted a similar suspicious package addressed to CNN in Atlanta.
The latest developments in the bomb case came with just over a week to go in highly charged political campaigns across the nation leading up to Nov. 6 elections. Democrats are battling to seize control of a Congress now held by Trump’s Republican Party.
In U.S. District Court on Monday afternoon, Cesar Sayoc, his salt-and-pepper hair pulled back into a ponytail, remained largely silent, only acknowledging Judge Edwin Torres’ reading of the charges against him.
Shackled and wearing a beige jumpsuit, the 56-year-old man began to tear up, and the three attorneys with him stood shoulder to shoulder to obscure news reporters’ and photographers’ view of him.
Sayoc was scheduled to appear in court in Miami again on Friday.
The former male stripper, part-time pizza deliveryman and apparent avid Trump fan is charged with five felony counts: interstate transportation and illegal mailing of explosives, threatening a former president, making threatening interstate communications and assaulting federal officers.
Outside the court, defence attorney Jamie Benjamin called the charges “flimsy” and accused the government of trying Sayoc in the media, forcing judgement before the case has gone to court.
“All there is this thin amount of evidence that has been alleged in that complaint,” Benjamin said.
Sayoc’s case is expected to be moved to New York, where he will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office there, officials said.
Earlier on Monday, the FBI said a suspicious package addressed to CNN’s headquarters had been intercepted at an Atlanta post office.
A package containing a bomb sent to CNN’s New York offices at the Time Warner Center forced the evacuation on Wednesday of the building.
Tensions stirred by the rash of pipe bombs ratcheted up even further after a gunman opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, killing 11 worshippers while yelling “All Jews must die.”
All of the bombs were sent through the U.S. Postal Service and intercepted before reaching their intended targets. No one has been hurt.
The first of last week’s 14 bombs turned up on Oct. 22 in the mailbox of billionaire Democratic donor George Soros’ home in the suburb of Katonah, New York.
More bombs were sent to a range of prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and other frequent targets of Trump’s scorn.
(Additional reporting by Nick Carey; writing by Rich McKay; editing by Nick Macfie and Jonathan Oatis)