DNA, fingerprint evidence helped lead FBI to Trump’s fan
NEW YORK, Oct 27, (Agencies): A Florida fan of Donald Trump was arrested and charged Friday with mailing 13 bombs to opponents of the US president in a brazen, week-long spree that infl amed the country ahead of key elections. Cesar Sayoc, 56, a registered Republican with a criminal history and reported past as a stripper, was born in New York and lived in a van covered in pro-Trump and anti-liberal stickers.
He was arrested outside a Florida mall. The van was impounded and Sayoc charged with five federal crimes, including mailing of explosives and threats against former presidents, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced. If put on trial and convicted, he faces up to 48 years in prison in what politicians on both sides of the aisle have condemned as domestic terrorism. “We do believe that we’ve caught the right guy but… there’s a lot of work still to be done, which means there are still plenty of unanswered questions,” FBI director Christopher Wray told a news conference.
The 13 bombs were sent through the mail, many of them through a US Postal Service processing center in Florida, and Sayoc was tracked down based on fingerprint and possible DNA evidence, agents said. The Republican president congratulated law enforcement for what he called a “fantastic job.” Speaking before his supporters at a North Carolina campaign rally later Friday, Trump called the attempted attacks “terrorist actions” that must be punished “to the fullest extent of the law.” “Political violence must never ever be allowed in America and I will do everything in my power to stop it.”
In southern Florida, FBI agents and police swarmed the strip mall in Plantation, where an AFP photographer saw a van covered in blue tarpaulin loaded onto a truck by authorities and driven away. Sayoc is accused of mailing explosives to 11 prominent Democrats or liberal critics of the president, including former president Barack Obama and Trump’s opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton.
The other targets were ex-vice-president Joe Biden, Hollywood star Robert De Niro, billionaire donor George Soros, former CIA director John Brennan, former intelligence chief James Clapper, former attorney general Eric Holder, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Waters and Biden were each sent two packages. All the targets are loathed by Trump supporters for their public opposition to the US president.
The president acknowledged the suspect’s political allegiance, but denied any responsibility that his incendiary rhetoric could have played a role in motivating the spree. “I heard he was a person that preferred me over others,” he told reporters. “There is no blame,” he insisted, despite being hounded by political opponents for his response to the crisis in which he lashed out at the media.
“The media has been unbelievably unfair to Republicans, conservatives, and certainly to me,” he said Friday. “But with all of that being said, we’re winning. So I like that.” Asked about the role that rhetoric could have played, the FBI demurred. “It’s too early at this stage for us to be discussing motivation in this particular case,” Wray told reporters in Washington. A lawyer for the suspect’s family, Ron Lowy, told CNN that Sayoc prior “had no interest in politics,” and that he was more into “bodybuilding, nightclub events.” US media reported Sayoc had once danced as a male stripper, and The New York Daily News quoted an event promoter as saying the suspect would dance at strip clubs and ran a show called “Girls Night Out.”
“It’s my opinion that he was attracted to the Trump formula of reaching out,” lawyer Lowy said. “Trump reaching out to these types of outsiders, people who don’t fit in, people who are angry at America, telling them that they have a place at the table, telling them that it’s OK to get angry.” “I believe that that was a motivating factor. Do I blame the president solely? No. This is a sick individual.”
Each of the homemade bombs included six inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring and energetic material, defined by Wray as potentially explosive. The first package was intercepted Monday at Soros’ Bedford, New York home. The most recent ones on Friday in California, Florida and New York. The Clapper and Brennan packages were marked care of CNN, a television network often critical of the administration and long provoking Trump’s ire. Sayoc, had a history of financial problems and an extensive arrest record, including a stint on probation for making a bomb threat. His attorney in that 2002 case, Ronald Lowy, described Sayoc as “a confused man who had trouble controlling his emotions.” A cousin of Sayoc, Lenny Altieri, used stronger terms.
“I know the guy is a lunatic,” Altieri told The Associated Press. “He has been a loner.” Altieri confirmed that Sayoc had been a stripper. On an online resume, Sayoc described himself as a booker and promoter for burlesque shows. Stacy Saccal, the general manager of the Ultra Gentlemen’s Club in West Palm Beach, said Sayoc had worked there for about two months, first as a fl oor bouncer and for the past month as a disc jockey – most recently on Thursday night, hours before his arrest Friday morning. “I didn’t know this guy was mad crazy like this,” she said Friday. “Never once did he speak politics. This is a bar. We don’t talk politics or religion in a bar, you know?”