So-Called ‘MAGA Bomber’ Expected to Plead Guilty

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)

MANHATTAN (CN) – The man suspected of sending mail bombs to former President Barack Obama and CNN newsrooms, among other perceived critics of President Donald Trump, indicated Friday that he will change his plea to guilty.

Though Cesar Sayoc previously pleaded not guilty to a 30-count indictment in November, a new entry in the 56-year-old’s case docket shows that U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff has scheduled a new plea hearing for March 21.

Dubbed the MAGA bomber, Sayoc was arrested in October beside a white van decorated with pro-Trump slogans. 

The Aventura, Florida, man is believed to have targeted former Vice President Joseph Biden, former Secretary of State 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 and actor-director Robert De Niro.

Sayoc’s attorney Sarah Baumgarten, with the Federal Defenders of New York, did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment.

The Florida man’s legal team scheduled the hearing during a telephone conference with the judge on Wednesday, for which there is no transcript. It is not clear on which counts Sayoc is expected to change his plea. Certain charges carry the possibility of life imprisonment.

During Sayoc’s last arraignment, Assistant U.S. Attorney Emil Bove revealed that prosecutors were still canvasing for surveillance video, including from the Florida post office. The evidence haul by then already was formidable. Among various images plastered on Sayoc’s van were pictures of the bomb recipients like Obama and Clinton in red crosshairs. Picking through data from his laptop and other electronic devices inside the vehicle, authorities discovered forensic evidence tying him to misspelled web searches that included “address Debbie wauserman Shultz,” “hilary clinton and family,” and “address kamila harrias.”

Had the case gone to trial, prosecutors anticipated calling forensic experts on explosives and destructive devices and DNA and fingerprint analysis.

The Department of Justice had been silent on Sayoc’s motive, and Trump tried to distance himself from the man he called “this crazy bomber.” But Sayoc’s threats to journalists closely tracked Trump’s attacks on the press.

Three days after Trump called the news media the “enemy of the people” in February 2017, Sayoc tweeted to Fox News’ Chris Wallace: “The Press is the enemy.”

News of Sayoc’s change of plea falls shortly after a white-supremacist attack on a mosque killed 19 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, sparking calls by the U.N. Security Counsel for a global clampdown on white supremacist violence.

“The members of the Security Council underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice, and urged all states, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the government of the New Zealand and all other relevant authorities in this regard,” the council wrote in a statement.

Sayoc returns to court on Thursday.

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