Florida Man Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to 20 Years in Prison for Mailing 16 Improvised Explosive Devices in Connection with October 2018 Domestic Terrorist Attack
Cesar Altieri Sayoc was sentenced yesterday to 20 years in prison in connection with his mailing of 16 improvised explosive devices to victims across the country. SAYOC pled guilty to a 65-count Superseding Information on March 21, 2019, before U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, who also imposed today’s sentence.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said: “Time and again, we have seen individuals attempt to express political views and resolve political disagreements through violence. Cesar Sayoc has now been sentenced for acts of domestic terrorism that are repulsive to all Americans who cherish a society built on respectful and non-violent political discourse. Our democracy depends on our debating our strongly held views peacefully and respectfully, and when someone does not, on our prosecuting and punishing those who do not abide by these values. I applaud the efforts of so many in our law enforcement community whose alertness and tirelessness led to the prompt arrest of the defendant before he was able to injure anyone, as well as those whose efforts led to this sentence.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Cesar Sayoc assembled and mailed explosive devices to high-ranking officials and former elected leaders to incite fear and to terrorize his victims. Though thankfully no one was hurt by his actions, Sayoc’s domestic terrorism challenged our nation’s cherished tradition of peaceful political discourse. For his wanton disregard of the safety of so many people, Sayoc will now spend 20 years in prison.”
“I could not be more proud of the work by our Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the country, our partners including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and U.S. Secret Service, and the FBI’s Laboratory and Counterterrorism Divisions to bring Cesar Sayoc to justice,” said Assistant Director Michael McGarrity of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. "This case should serve as a warning to anyone looking to intimidate or hurt those they disagree with that the FBI will stop at nothing to protect the communities we serve from the threat of domestic terrorism."
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “Sayoc’s crimes were intended to incite fear among his targets and uncertainty among the general public, leading to a significant deployment of various law enforcement resources in a nationwide search to find him. When called upon, our FBI JTTFs across the country – along with our partner agencies – did what we do best, working swiftly, and side by side, to bring him to justice. Unlike most of our investigations, this case played out in plain view from beginning to end. Today's sentencing is as good a time as any to remind the public that our JTTFs are working behind the scenes on a daily basis, in much the same way, to keep our communities safe.”
According to the Superseding Information, court filings, and statements made during court proceedings:
In October 2018, Sayoc mailed from Florida 16 padded envelopes, each containing an improvised explosive device (IED), to addresses in New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Georgia, and California. In alphabetical order, Sayoc’s intended victims (the Victims) were former Vice President Joseph Biden, Senator Cory Booker, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CNN, Robert De Niro, Senator Kamala Harris, former Attorney General Eric Holder, former President Barack Obama, George Soros, Thomas Steyer, and Representative Maxine Walters. Between October 22 and Nov. 2, 2018, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Service recovered all of the 16 IEDs mailed by Sayoc.
Each of the IEDs mailed by Sayoc contained a mix of explosive powder from fireworks, shards of glass, and pool chemicals, designed to maximize potential injuries, damage, and the burning of his intended Victims’ skin. On the outside of each IED, Sayoc placed photographs of each of the Victims, and sometimes their families and others, with a red “X” over their faces. Sayoc also affixed black flags, similar in appearance to banners used by ISIS and other foreign terrorist organizations, to the outside of the IEDs.
Sayoc had posted incendiary comments about liberal political figures online since at least 2011. In the months prior to mailing the IEDs, Sayoc incited violence against the Victims, conveyed direct threats against them, and researched where and how to carry out his attack. For example, in April 2016, he wrote that former President Barack Obama’s “head need[ed] to be chopped off” and he wished “death” to George Soros and former Attorney General Eric Holder. In April 2017, Sayoc wished “Death” to “all Clintons” and in November 2017 posted “Your days are number[ed] Steyer.” Beginning in December 2017, Sayoc researched the Victims and their addresses. For example, on Dec. 23, 2017, Sayoc searched for the address of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and, over the course of the ensuing months, Sayoc repeatedly searched for the “home address” or “address” of several of the Victims, and Sayoc intensified these searches in the days before his attack. Finally, Sayoc researched online how to make a “letter bomb” and watched videos depicting explosions.
The FBI arrested Sayoc in Plantation, Florida, on Oct. 26, 2018—less than five days after the October 22 recovery of the first IED, which Sayoc mailed to Soros in New York.
In addition to his prison sentence, Sayoc, 57, of Florida, was sentenced to five of supervised release.
Assistant Attorney General Demers and U.S. Attorney Berman praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the New York City Police Department, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant Attorney General Demers and U.S. Attorney Berman also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of Florida, the District of Columbia, the District of Delaware, the District of New Jersey, the Central District of California, the Eastern District of California, the Northern District of California, and the Northern District of Georgia for their assistance in the investigation.
This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sam Adelsberg, Emil J. Bove III, Jane Kim, and Jason A. Richman are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney David Cora of the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.