Cesar Sayoc, 56, Arrested And Charged In Connection With Political Bombing Attempts
Authorities have arrested a Florida man named Cesar Sayoc, a 56-year-old Trump supporter, in connection with the wave of bombing attempts directed at critics of the President.
Fifty-six-year-old Cesar Sayoc Jr. has been arrested and charged in connection with the rash of bombs sent via the United States Postal Service to a variety of Democratic Party politicians and officials, former government officials, and CNN:
Federal authorities made an arrest on Friday in connection with the nationwide bombing campaign against outspoken critics of President Trump, a significant breakthrough in a case that has gripped the country in the days leading up to the midterm elections.
Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as Cesar Sayoc Jr., 56, of Aventura, Fla., just north of Miami.
The arrest came even as the crude pipe bombs continued to appear across the country. One, found in Florida, was addressed to Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat; another, discovered in a Manhattan post office, was sent to James R. Clapper Jr., a former director of national intelligence; and a third was intercepted before it reached Senator Kamala Harris, a California Democrat.
A fourth bomb, found on Friday in a mail facility in California, was addressed to Tom Steyer, a prominent Democratic donor, a person close to him said.
At a news conference in Washington on Friday afternoon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Mr. Sayoc had been charged with five counts, including illegal mailing of explosives and making threats against former presidents. According to a criminal complaint released as Mr. Sessions spoke, the packages sent by Mr. Sayoc included photographs of his intended targets, each one marked with a red X.
When asked why Mr. Sayoc had sent the bombs to Democrats, Mr. Sessions said he was not sure, adding that the suspect “appears to be a partisan.”
Federal officials said they had tracked down Mr. Sayoc, who has a lengthy arrest history, after finding one of his fingerprints on a package sent to Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat. Mr. Sayoc’s identify was confirmed, the officials added, after investigators found a match between DNA samples discovered on two other packages he sent and DNA that was collected during one of his previous arrests.
The F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, said that the bureau was still trying to determine if Mr. Sayoc’s bombs were “functional” but also noted that they contained “energetic material” that could be dangerous. Mr. Wray said that the investigation was “active and ongoing” and cautioned that there could be more bombs still undiscovered.
Mr. Sayoc is a registered Republican whose arrest record in Florida dates back to 1991 and includes felony theft, drug and fraud charges, as well as allegations that he threatened to use a bomb, public records show.
His criminal history from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement indicates that at the time of his last arrest in 2015, he was 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds. He has brown eyes, black hair and a scar on his left arm, the records said, and was born in New York. The records listed Mr. Sayoc’s occupation some years ago as “manager.”
According to a 2012 bankruptcy petition filed in Miami, Mr. Sayoc resided at the time at his mother’s home. “Lives w/mom,” a handwritten note on the petition said. “Has no furniture.”
[Read more on what we know about the suspect, Cesar Sayoc Jr.]
Mr. Sayoc was arrested around 11 a.m. Friday at an AutoZone car repair shop in Plantation, Fla., about 20 miles from Aventura, officials said. Patrol cars shut down the surrounding streets, leaving rows of businesses inaccessible for part of the morning. The authorities also seized and towed away Mr. Sayoc’s white van.
Some residents of Aventura reported seeing a similar white van, the windows of which were plastered with a thick collage of pro-Trump stickers, often parked in the lot of a local strip mall, the Aventura Waterways shopping center. Photos of the van showed that one of the stickers depicted Mr. Trump standing in front of flames and the American flag. Another was of Hillary Clinton’s face in the cross hairs of a rifle scope. A third said: “CNN Sucks.”
“It struck me because of the crazy conspiratorial stickers covering the windows,” said David Cypkin, a documentary film producer and editor with the Rakontur production company. “It was unsettling, and also it seemed to be occupied. Sometimes the door would be ajar or a window would be open, which indicated to me that maybe somebody was living in the van.”
Speaking at the White House on Friday, Mr. Trump praised law enforcement officials for quickly arresting a suspect.
“These terrorizing acts are despicable and have no place in our country,” he said.
He added: “We must never allow political violence to take root in America.”
One law enforcement official said that Mr. Sayoc was expected to be questioned under what is known as the national security exception, meaning that he can be interviewed at least initially without the presence of a lawyer.
More from The Washington Post:
A man in Florida with a lengthy criminal record was arrested and charged Friday in connection with the suspected mail bombs sent to high profile figures, authorities said.
The arrest came on the same day law enforcement responded to three more devices — in Florida, New York and California — pushing the total number of packages found by authorities to 13. All of the devices were sent to people who have criticized or clashed with President Trump, and while none have detonated, officials have been on high alert and worried about whether more could be delivered.
The suspect has been identified as 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc. State records show he had a criminal record dating back decades, including a past arrest for making a bomb threat.
Sayoc was charged with transporting explosives across state lines, illegally mailing explosives, threatening former presidents and others, threatening interstate communications and assaulting federal officials, according to charging documents. He faces up to 58 years in prison, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference announcing the charges.
FBI Director Christopher Wray referred to the 13 explosive devices recovered so far as “IEDs,” an acronym for improvised explosive devices. He said investigators were able to trace Sayoc after finding a fingerprint on an envelope containing a bomb sent to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and that DNA found on two of the devices matched a sample previously taken from Sayoc during an earlier arrest.
Inside the packages sent to three of the potential targets — former president Barack Obama, former CIA director John Brennan and Waters — were a picture of each person with red “X” marks on them, according to the criminal complaint, filed by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
Wray declined to say whether the devices could have detonated, saying that investigators are “still trying to determine whether or not they were functional.” But he said they did contain potentially explosive material adding: “These are not hoax devices.”
The complaint also included details suggesting Sayoc’s antipathy toward the people and organizations targeted, including CNN, where one packaged was found and another addressed.
“The windows of Sayoc’s van were covered with images including images critical of CNN,” the complaint said. The complaint also identifies a Twitter account that law enforcement officials believe Sayoc used, and noted that account contained misspellings consistent with misspellings on the packages, and that one post made Wednesday criticized George Soros, the billionaire activist, who two days earlier had received an explosive.
Wray declined to say if Sayoc is cooperating with investigators. When asked why Sayoc allegedly targeted Democrats, Sessions said he “appears to be a partisan” and declined to comment further.
Sayoc’s arrest came just hours after the news broke this morning regarding the packages addressed to Senator Booker and former Director Clapper, which were found at mail processing facilities in Florid and New York respectively, had become public knowledge. It also came at roughly the same time as news broke regarding an additional package addressed to California Senator Kamala Harris was located in Sacramento and another potential device addressed to liberal activist Tom Steyer was being investigated in Burlingame, California. The arrest also caps off a week in which packages were found in New York, Washington, D.C., California, and Florida addressed to a long list of Trump critics. It began on Monday with the discovery of a package in the mailbox of George Soros’s Westchester, New York home. On Wednesday, authorities across the country found packages addressed to former President Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder, the New York City offices of CNN, and two packages sent to the Washington, D.C, and California district offices of Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Yesterday, there were two packages discovered, one sent to actor Robert DeNiro at his office in the TriBeCa neighborhood located in Lower Manhattan, and two addressed to former Vice-President Joe Biden, both of which were found at mail facilities in Delaware. All of the packages that were discovered through yesterday were sent in similar looking envelopes, with stamps, and using the Florida district address of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as a return address.
Based on the Criminal Complaint and the comments by law enforcement this afternoon, it appears that Sayoc acted alone so it would appear we’ve reached the end of the road for these bombings. The one unknown factor is whether or not there are any other devices out there that have yet to be discovered. Law enforcement is no doubt trying to determine that from its examination of the van and questioning of Sayoc, but it is unclear if he is cooperating or if he has invoked his rights to remain silent and to counsel. In that case, getting information out of him regarding other devices still in the stream of mail somewhere in the country could prove to be difficult.
While we don’t know much as of yet as a potential motive, or whether or not Sayoc had any confederates or potential co-conspirators, there have been some revelations uncovered in the hours after his name was revealed to the public subsequent to his arrest in Florida. A search of Sayoc’s apparent social media accounts, for example, show him to be a strong supporter of President Trump who had made threats against Democrats and critics in the past, while other reports indicated a previous criminal history that, in part was the reason why authorities were able to track him down via fingerprints found on several of the devices so quickly:
The man arrested on suspicion of mailing at least a dozen suspicious packages to Democrats criticized by Donald Trump is a big fan of the president, with a long criminal history.
Cesar Sayoc, 56, was taken into custody by federal authorities on Friday in Plantation, Florida, according to multiple press accounts. Law enforcement also took possession of a van covered in stickers supporting Trump and criticizing Democratic officials. The Justice Department scheduled a press conference on the case for 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Sayoc is a registered Republican and called himself a promoter and booking agent. He was arrested numerous times, including for felony grand theft in the third degree in November 2013; he pleaded the next the next year. He was found guilty of a misdemeanor retail theft charge that stemmed from a May 2015 incident, along with multiple traffic violations.
Sayoc declared bankruptcy in 2012, when he had $21,109 in liabilities. The filing indicated he lived with his mother, owned an 11-year-old Chevy Tahoe with 285,000 miles on it, had collected unemployment and was working as a store manager. His attorney’s office was flooded with phone calls after his name emerged.
A Twitter account made in 2016 that appears to belong to the suspect has more than 1,000 images, many dedicated to baseless conspiracy theories. A spam of posts from this year all claim that Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivor David Hogg was a protester paid by billionaire George Soros. Another post claims Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) took money from the Russians and is a “poverty pimp.” And in a July post, he claims that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Fla.) is known for “ripping off the elderly.” Soros, Waters and Wasserman Shultz were all targets of suspicious packages this week.
Other intended recipients of the packages included former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Robert De Niro, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and former CIA Director John Brennan.
A Tampa resident who said he encountered Sayoc in a hotel parking lot in Miami last May told HuffPost that the suspect was quirky — given the stickers on his van — but didn’t seem “violent” during their hourlong conversation.
“He wasn’t talking violent or anything like that but basically talked about fake news, Obama, Hillary Clinton, stuff like that. He said his family didn’t agree with him, that he only associated with other Trump supporters,” said the man, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Korey.
When Korey, a 40-year-old black Trump supporter, saw the van on TV Friday morning, he immediately identified it as Sayoc’s. Korey said he couldn’t believe the “regular Republican” he had spoken to was the bomb suspect.
“It was crazy, man. He never said nothing verbally hateful. He didn’t say, ‘I want to kill Obama.’ He railed against him but never threatened,” Korey said.
As noted, when Sayoc was arrested, law enforcement also took possession of what was apparently his van, which was covered in both pro-Trump stickers and posters, and stickers and posters directed against Democrats and other critics of the President. Here are two of the pictures that have been released of that van: (click to enlarge)
The van was located in the parking lot of a strip mall about 30 minutes north of Miami, and it appears from the available evidence that Sayoc had been living out of the van for the past several months and that he may or may not have been employed at an Autozone located in that strip mall. As noted, he was apparently identified as earlier as yesterday when fingerprints recovered from at least one of the devices was matched to fingerprint records for Sayoc taken during the course of previous arrests.
If convicted, Sayoc faces more than fifty years in prison based on the Federal sentencing guidelines, but those numbers could change when he is indicted, especially if he ends up being charged under terrorism-related charges, which are currently not a part of the charges listed in the Criminal Complaint, which I have embedded below. Procedurally, since Sayoc was arrested in Florida his initial court appearance will be before a Federal Judge there. However, since he is charged in the Southern District of New York he will likely be sent there as quickly as possible. From there he will be indicted by a Grand Jury and the case will proceed forward.