MANHATTAN (CN) — A federal judge imposed 10 life sentences plus centuries in prison Wednesday on the Uzbek immigrant who used a rented Home Depot truck to carry out a violent attack on a lower Manhattan bike path in 2017.
U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick presided over the lengthy hearing, which featured three hours of heartbreaking victim impact testimony from 21 victims and relatives, ultimately imposing the maximum statutory penalty: eight consecutive life sentences, plus 260 years in prison with two additional life sentences to be served concurrently.
Sayfullo Saipov, 35, was spared the death penalty earlier this year after a federal jury could not come to a unanimous decision, triggering an automatic mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of release.
“The fact is simple: You indiscriminately killed mothers, fathers, sons and daughters," Judge Broderick said, noting Saipov's significant lack of contrition. “Not every person that watches the ISIS propaganda is radicalized. Not every person who is radicalized … commits a heinous crime where they kill multiple people, but you did.”
On each count of Saipov’s 28-count conviction, Judge Broderick imposed the exact sentence that federal prosecutors sought: eight consecutive life sentences on the murder counts, 260 years’ imprisonment to run consecutively on counts of attempted murder and assault with a dangerous weapon, and two additional life sentences on provision of material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and violent destruction of motor vehicles, to run concurrently with all other sentences imposed.
“Such a sentence is necessary to provide just punishment, to reflect the seriousness of the defendant’s offense, to promote adequate deterrence, and to account for the defendant’s history and characteristics,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing filing.
“Concurrent life sentences in this case would be insufficient,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Houle said Wednesday afternoon. “Each murder the defendant committed warrants a consecutive sentence.”
Many of the victims who testified wore matching white T-shirts that read “Together Stronger” with a drawing of a scratched-up red heart on one side, and the Spanish words “Que el amor venza al odio" on the other. In English the phrase translates to "may love overcome hate."
Marion Van Reeth, a Belgian mother who had to have both her legs amputated after they were severely mangled by the truck rampage, directly addressed Saipov on Wednesday morning, asking him if the extremist ideology that motivated the terror attack remained unchanged five and a half years.
“I have a question for you, after all this time in prison, are you still convinced that your cruel acts versus innocent people was the right thing,” she said, speaking from her wheelchair in front of the witness stand. “Do you still feel yourself as a warrior of ISIS?”
Maria Alejandra Sosa — the widow of Alejandro Pagnucco, one of five childhood friends from Rosario, Argentina, who were killed in the attack while celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation — also seethed directly at the terrorist.
“You’re worthless, you do not even deserve a place in this world,” she said, speaking in Spanish through an interpreter. “You’re pitiful. You have humiliated your mother and your father. Your last name brings shame. Your god is ashamed,” she raged.
“You have no feelings, and you will never know what love is. And you will never feel someone really loves, because your god, your dear god, is just like you: garbage.
“One day, I hope I get the news that you have died in jail just like you deserved,” she continued.
Dressed in all black, Gabriela Pabla Pereya, the wife of Argentinean victim Ariel Erlij, delivered one of the hearing’s briefest and most cutting impact statements Wednesday morning. “To Saipov, your god thinks you are a coward, because you didn’t kill yourself, and then you killed them,” she said. “If you want make him to accept you and love you, go kill yourself.”