Cesar Sayoc Pleads Not Guilty in NY to Mail-Bomb Charges

MANHATTAN (CN) – Shuttled from his home state of Florida to New York, where at least half a dozen public figures were mailed pipe bombs in recent weeks, accused #MAGAbomber Cesar Sayoc pleaded not guilty Thursday to a 30-count indictment.

In this courtroom sketch, pipe-bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc raises his arm to swear to the truth of his statement of need for assigned counsel, during his Nov. 6, 2018, presentment in Manhattan Federal Court. Sayoc, who faces charges for allegedly mailing more than a dozen explosive devices to prominent Democrats, CNN and critics of President Donald Trump, has been ordered held without bail in New York. At left is Federal Defender Sarah Baumgartel, while standing far right are U.S. marshals. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff lived up to his reputation for courtroom whimsy as he kicked off Sayoc’s noon arraignment, asking attorneys whether they would shave “an hour and a half” from the proceedings by waiving a public reading of the indictment.

Giggling, defense lawyer Sarah Baumgartel responded that she would.

Seated beside her, 56-year-old Sayoc sat silently in a chair, clad in a navy prison uniform. His head, with strands of hair slicked in stripes into a ponytail, was largely pointed down throughout the proceedings.

Sayoc, whose social-media nickname references the “Make America Great Again” campaign promise of President Donald Trump, was arrested last month in a white van festooned with Trump paraphernalia and images of the president’s perceived enemies marked with crosshairs.

Charged with using weapons of mass destruction, the Aventura man is believed to have sent 16 improvised explosive devices to high-profile Democrats, intelligence officers, philanthropists and CNN. If convicted, the charges carry the possibility of life imprisonment.

Cesar Sayoc is seen in a booking photo in Miami. (Broward County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Assistant U.S. Attorney Emil Bove told the judge today that prosecutors are still canvasing for surveillance video, including from the Florida post office. They anticipate calling forensic experts on explosives and destructive devices and DNA and fingerprint analysis.

Baumgartel said that the case will require the resource-strapped Federal Defenders of New York to travel to Florida for their investigation.

“This is a slightly more complex case than the average one,” she said.

Prosecutors say Sayoc’s targets included former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joseph Biden, 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Senator Cory Booker, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, philanthropist and billionaire George Soros, and actor and director Robert De Niro.

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