By Brendan Pierson
(Reuters) – A Florida man who mailed pipes filled with explosives to prominent Democrats and critics of U.S. President Donald Trump was expected to be sentenced on Monday.
Cesar Sayoc, 57, was expected to appear before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) in Manhattan federal court.
Prosecutors have described Sayoc in court filings as the mastermind of a “two-week terrorist attack” motivated by “hate-filled ideology.” They have asked Rakoff to sentence him to life in prison, saying he is dangerous to the public.
Sayoc’s lawyers have painted a sharply contrasting picture of their client, who they said was “kind-hearted and eager to please,” but suffered from severe learning disabilities, childhood abuse and steroid use that left him isolated and paranoid.
“In this darkness, Mr. Sayoc found light in Donald J. Trump,” his lawyers said. At the time he was arrested in October, they said, Sayoc was living in a his van and had become preoccupied with conspiracy theories spread on social media about Trump’s opponents.
“The combination of his cognitive deficiencies, steroid-induced delusional thinking, political naiveté and his isolation resulted in Mr. Sayoc being unable to critically evaluate these claims,” they said.
They are asking Rakoff to sentence their client to just over the legal minimum sentence of 10 years.
Sayoc pleaded guilty in March to using weapons of mass destruction and other crimes, admitting that he sent packages containing pipes stuffed with explosives, wires and alarm clocks to 16 people.
The intended recipients of the packages included former President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, billionaire investor and Democratic donor George Soros, former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan, actor Robert DeNiro and CNN.
All of the devices were intercepted before reaching their intended targets, and none exploded.
Sayoc showed signs of regret soon after pleading guilty, writing a series of handwritten letters to Rakoff saying that the packages were hoaxes, and that he did not intend for them to explode or for anyone to be injured.
A report by federal investigators concluded that the devices Sayoc sent had no mechanism to trigger an explosion and would not have worked as bombs.
Prosecutors have said in court papers that the letters show that Sayoc has not accepted responsibility for his actions and amount to an attempt to “retract” his plea.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)