None of the pipe-bomb-type devices Cesar Sayoc sent to media organizations and Democratic political figures in a terror spree last year would have worked, according to an FBI report posted Tuesday by the Manhattan federal judge overseeing the case.
Sayoc, 57, an avowed fan of President Donald Trump who sent 16 packages to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, CNN and other targets, pleaded guilty to 65 felonies this year. He could face up to life in prison at sentencing that is scheduled for Aug. 5 before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who posted the reports.
“As submitted, the devices would not have functioned as a result of their design,” according to a 107-page report from the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia. “The fuzing system for each device lacked the proper components and assembly to enable it to function as a method of initiation for these devices.”
The report said the devices all had glass fragments added to them that could have done property damage and injured or killed people if they exploded. Examiners cautioned that the flaws may have been a result of either ineptitude, or lack of malice.
“It cannot be determined if the non-functional fuzing system is a result of poor design or the intent of the builder,” the report said.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers for Sayoc both declined to comment on the report. They are scheduled to file sentencing papers later this month.
The report’s conclusions were consistent with some of Sayoc’s statements in court that he made “devices designed to look like pipe bombs.” Prosecutors hadn’t previously said in court if the packages would have exploded, if opened.
Brooklyn-born Sayoc, a former dancer from Aventura, Florida, who drove a van festooned with pro-Trump and other bumper stickers, sent packages last October to Democratic politicians and liberal figures such as George Soros and actor Robert DeNiro. But no one was hurt.
After his guilty plea, he sent a series of meandering handwritten letters to Rakoff, describing his life history, including extensive steroid use, complaining that his plea was the result of “fobias” and questioning the descriptions of his devices. But he reaffirmed his plea at a second hearing.
A review of the FBI’s findings by Engineering Systems Inc., a firm retained by Sayoc’s federal public defenders that was also posted by Rakoff, said the devices had multiple flaws, including poor design of the containment pipe, and a lack of initiation mechanisms or ignition sources.
“As designed and assembled,” the report concluded, “the 16 devices are at best each a crude counterfeit of an explosive device.”