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Defense: Accused mail bomber Cesar Sayoc meant no physical harm

Cesar Sayoc.

Cesar Sayoc. Photo Credit: Broward County Sheriff's Office via AP

Defense lawyers for Cesar Sayoc on Monday described him as an “unhinged” man who never intended to hurt anyone in his 2018 campaign to mail bomb-like devices to Democrats, and urged a Manhattan federal judge to sentence him to just a month over the 10-year mandatory minimum.

Sayoc, 57, pleaded guilty last year to 65 felonies for mailing 16 devices to public figures such as Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama, but last week U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff unsealed an FBI report that revealed none of them would have worked.

“Mr. Sayoc was delusional at this time,” Sayoc’s team of public defenders wrote Rakoff on Monday. " … His goal was to scare, intimidate, and emotionally injure the targets of these packages. But he did not actually want to kill or physically injure anyone, and he did not think that the devices were capable of exploding.”

Monday night, however, prosecutors disputed that claim in a letter urging the judge to imprison Sayoc for life at his Aug. 5 sentencing.

Even if the bombs didn’t work, they argued, Sayoc spread fear and terror, and sending out “improvised explosive devices” with combustible components that could have detonated was more than a "hoax.”

“That is simply false,” they wrote. “Deficient as the defendant may be as a bomb maker, hoaxes do not involve real explosives, real shards of glass, and real toxic chemicals, as the defendant’s IEDs did.”

The 39-page defense memorandum detailed Sayoc’s life story, describing the one-time male dancer as a man who struggled with cognitive limitations, learning disabilities and sexual abuse, and as an adult became dependent on steroids and other drugs and increasingly anxious and paranoid.

“In this darkness, Mr. Sayoc found light in Donald J. Trump,” the defense lawyers wrote, and eventually sent out the devices after becoming convinced that “prominent Democrats were actively working to hurt him, other Trump supporters, and the country as a whole.”

The FBI reports posted last week by Rakoff said Sayoc’s crude pipe-bomb-style devices contained explosive material, a clock timer and wires, but were not actually wired to function. The report said it couldn’t be determined whether Sayoc was incompetent, or did not want them to explode.

In his guilty plea, Sayoc admitted there was a risk that explosive material could detonate. But his defense team said it was obvious he never intended that result — the clock “timer” wasn’t set and still had a factory sticker simulating a display on it, and he enclosed pictures of his targets with red “X’s” that would have been destroyed in an actual explosion.

“Mr. Sayoc’s actions are consistent with someone sending a threatening message, not someone who intended these packages to function as actual bombs or to physically harm a specific person,” the defense lawyers wrote.

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