Trial of NYC Truck Attack Suspect Put on Hold

MANHATTAN (CN) – Citing the 35-day partial government shutdown among a laundry list of factors, a federal judge ordered a six-month postponement of the trial for New York truck attack suspect Sayfullo Saipov.

A damaged Home Depot truck remains at the scene of the bike path attack in lower Manhattan on Nov. 1, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick means victims and the public will have to wait more than two years for a reckoning on what has been called the worst terrorist attacks on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.

On Oct. 11, 2017, Saipov drove a rental pickup truck onto the bike and pedestrian greenway along the Hudson River Parkway, killing eight people and injuring 12 others. He faces a 22-count indictment that includes several death-penalty offenses.

Saipov had initially been scheduled to go on trial this October, but Saipov’s attorney cited multiple complications that had arisen since the government shut down in December last year.

Among other factors, federal defender David Patton noted that the U.S. Department of State refused to grant visas to Saipov’s mother, father and siblings.

During 90-minute proceedings today, Patton called the mother’s testimony “absolutely essential” to showing Saipov’s capacity for redemption.

“I don’t question that the court is typically very limited in what it can do,” Patton said, referring to judge’s power to make the State Department grant the visas.

“But this is not a typical situation,” he added.

Capital cases are rare in New York, which has not executed a prisoner since 1963, but federal prosecutions fall under a different jurisdiction.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Laroche noted that victims and the public have “a powerful interest in seeing that justice be done.”

Broderick noted that Saipov also has a constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel, which could be jeopardized if his attorney Patton does not have the opportunity to review a large tranche of evidence that his office has received.

Patton said the government turned over roughly 100 recorded phone calls with 28 hours of audio, plus 200 emails with attachments and 7,000 WhatsApp messages. Many of the tapes and documents are in Saipov’s native Uzbek language, requiring translation for his attorneys to pursue leads from potentially dozens of witnesses.

Granting all of the requested time, plus an additional week, Broderick told Patton to prepare for a contingency plan if the State Department will not allow Saipov’s family to travel.

The judge indicated that he would allow the family to testify to the jury via closed-circuit television, if necessary.

Broderick also warned both parties there would be no further delay now that Saipov’s trial is scheduled for April 13, 2020.

“So, this is it,” Broderick said.

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