Feds File Death-Eligible Counts Against Suspect in NYC Truck Attack

A bicycle lays on a bike path at the crime scene where a motorist earlier Tuesday drove onto the path near the World Trade Center memorial, striking and killing several people, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

MANHATTAN (CN) – Federal prosecutors hit the suspect in the New York City truck attack that killed eight people on Halloween with a 22-count indictment late Tuesday, eight charges of which carry a possible death penalty.

Each of those death-eligible charges represents a person prosecutors say 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov murdered with a rental truck during a deadly ride along Manhattan’s West Side Highway, mowing down civilians along a bicycle and pedestrian greenway until the vehicle crashed into a school bus.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions described the attack in a statement Tuesday as a “calculated act of terrorism in the heart of one of our great cities.”

He added, “People have a right to safety walking down a sidewalk or riding a bike, and we will not change our resolve to confront these threats both at home and abroad.”

After the attack, Saipov spent a day in Bellevue Hospital to recover from a gunshot wound to the abdomen by the police officer who arrested him, and federal prosecutors rushed him to court a day later for a Nov. 1 presentment.

Saipov has been incarcerated while prosecutors assembled a grand jury, which returned the indictment late Tuesday.

This undated photo provided by the St. Charles County Department of Corrections in St. Charles, Mo., via KMOV shows Sayfullo Saipov. Authorities say the same man used a rented pickup truck on Oct. 31, 2017, to mow down pedestrians and cyclists along a busy bike path near the World Trade Center memorial, killing eight. Officials who were not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity identified the attacker as Saipov. (St. Charles County, Missouri, Department of Corrections/KMOV via AP)

The 17-page document charges him with murder in aid of racketeering, attempted murder in aid of racketeering, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists and violence and destruction of motor vehicles.

Under federal law, the Department of Justice must formally announce their intention to seek capital punishment for the first set of counts, which are death-eligible.

There is little doubt, however, whether prosecutors will pursue it.

President Donald Trump cheered the possibility of Saipov’s speedy execution on Twitter.

“Should move fast,” Trump tweeted, referring to the trial. “DEATH PENALTY.”

Other than the particular charges, the indictment contains few new revelations not already found in Saipov’s criminal complaint.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said earlier this month that Saipov was inspired by the Islamic State group to turn his Load ’N Go flatbed truck into a weapon of terror. The Uzbek immigrant even toyed with the idea of flying the ISIS flag on his car, before scrapping the plan to avoid calling attention to himself, prosecutors say.

Kim added Tuesday that “scores of videos and images on his cellphone showed” the Islamic State group inspired the attack.

Saipov’s attorney Jennifer Brown, from the Federal Defenders of New York, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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