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NYC bike path attacker sentenced to 10 life terms in prison

More than 20 survivors of the attack and family members of the deceased spoke directly to the man responsible for the carnage at his sentencing hearing, many shaming him for his ongoing lack of remorse for the barbaric attack.

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.”


Monica Missio, whose 23-year-old son Nicholas Cleves was the only New Yorker killed in the rampage, described herself as a “mother subsumed by grief.”

“I’m no longer the person I used to be,” she said in her victim impact statement. “I no longer recognize my reflection in the mirror. Nicholas wouldn’t recognize me either.

“I call it parental annihilation,” she continued. “It’s a one-way ticket from which there is no return.”

Vera Dargoltz, wife of Hernán Ferruchi, held up a photograph of her late husband, directing Saipov to look at the face of the man he killed.

The last victim to testify on Wednesday was Rachel Pharn, who was sideswiped by Saipov’s truck while riding alone northbound.

“Let’s be clear, your actions did not serve Allah. Your actions served no one but yourself. … Despite how you distorted his name, he still loves you, and shows you mercy,” she said, pausing each line to make deliberate eye contact with Saipov. “He has rewarded you with the greatest gift of all: life.”

The impact of the truck broke her foot and ankle, scraped off part of her ankle, and injured her shoulder.

Defense lawyers opted to not make any statement at Wednesday's hearing, and did not file any sentencing submission prior.

Given the opportunity to speak at the hearing, Saipov launched into a drawn-out recitation of Islamic history.

Speaking through an Uzbek interpreter, Saipov delivered the devotional history of conflict between believers of Allah and nonbelievers, going back to Abrahamic Islamic stories of the "Tree of Immortality" and the tale of Qabil & Habil, virtually identical, respectively, to the same to Jewish and Christian iterations of the Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel stories.

"This fight between Islam and Kuffar became the fight until Doomsday," Saipov said, drawing a connection between ancient stories and the extremist rhetoric that influenced his terrorist attack.

After speaking for an hour, Saipov said "one handkerchief" could hold the blood and tears of the victims and their families who testified in his trial, "but the blood and tears of the Islam population would cover much more place."

"The courtroom would be filled up with tears and blood of the Muslim population," he said through the interpreter. "Praise to Allah and the prophet Muhammad," he concluded.

Justine Decadt, whose sister Ann-Laure Decadt was killed by Saipov, shouted at Saipov right after his Islamic diatribe concluded.

"The only act of the devil here is the act you did," she said.

Saipov never denied committing the murderous rampage on October 31, 2017, that left eight dead and a dozen more seriously injured, nor did he contest that he was inspired by other attacks for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility

While Saipov did not testify in his own defense at trial, his public defense attorney told jurors that Saipov said he carried out the religious martyrdom attack because he felt that the United States was killing innocent Muslims and he wanted “to do his share for” the caliphate.

Nine of the 28 counts on which Saipov was convicted were eligible for the death penalty: eight of them for murder, and one for destruction of a motor vehicle.

A death sentence in federal trials requires unanimity from all 12 jurors; otherwise the sentence is life in prison. Ten hours into penalty phase deliberations in March, the jurors informed Judge Broderick that they were deadlocked as to Saipov’s fate on the capital counts.

A federal jury in New York has not rendered a death sentence that withstood legal appeals in decades, with the last execution in 1954.

Saipov, who has been imprisoned at federal detention centers in Brooklyn and Manhattan for over five years, will spend the remainder of his life in the most restricted unit at ADX Florence, a super-maximum-security prison near Florence, Colorado — the high desert facility so secure and so remote that it known as the "Alcatraz of the Rockies."

Categories:Criminal, Trials

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