And the NY Times frets. Source: U.S. Seeks Death Penalty in Terror Attack on Manhattan Bike Path – New York Times
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan told a judge on Friday that they intend to seek the death penalty if a jury convicts Sayfullo Saipov, the Uzbek man charged in the 2017 truck attack that killed eight people on a crowded Manhattan bike path.
The Halloween Day attack was the deadliest in New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.
The decision to seek capital punishment ultimately rested with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Saipov’s lawyers had asked the judge to block the government from seeking the death penalty, citing tweets by President Trump that called for Mr. Saipov’s execution.
Shortly after the attack, Mr. Trump posted messages on Twitter declaring, “SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY” and “Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY.”
NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 2, 2017
The government’s decision was announced in a submission to the judge, Vernon S. Broderick of Federal District Court in Manhattan, by the office of Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Federal prosecutors rarely seek the death penalty. In the Southern District, it has not happened since the case of Khalid Barnes, who was convicted in 2008 of two drug-related murders. He was ultimately sentenced to life in prison.
Prosecutors say Mr. Saipov, 30, plowed a pickup truck down a bike path along the Hudson River, killing eight and injuring 11. The rampage ended when he smashed into a school bus, jumped out of his truck and ran down the highway waving a pellet gun and paintball guns and shouting “God is great” in Arabic. A police officer shot him in the abdomen, bringing him down.
[Why can’t the New York Times simply write what the terrorist actually shouted: “Allah Akbar!”]
Mr. Saipov, who faces eight capital counts of murder and other charges, is scheduled for trial on Oct. 7, 2019.
[Why doesn’t the New York Times simply list all the charges against the Muslim terrorist?
The defendant is charged with:
- Counts 1-8: Murder in Aid of Racketeering with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or death on each count.
- Counts 9-20: Attempted Murder in Aid of Racketeering with a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment on each count.
- Count 21: Providing and Attempting to Provide Material Support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization Resulting in Death with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
- Count 22: Violence and Destruction of Motor Vehicles Resulting in Death with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or death.
Source: Dept. of Justice]
He told the authorities after his arrest that he was inspired by Islamic State videos and that he had used a truck as a weapon in order to inflict maximum damage against civilians, prosecutors said in a criminal complaint.
Although Mr. Saipov has pleaded not guilty, his lawyers told Judge Broderick in January that the suspect would change his plea to guilty and accept a sentence of life imprisonment if the government agreed not to seek his execution.
Mr. Saipov’s lawyer, David E. Patton, who heads the federal public defender’s office in Manhattan, said he was disappointed by the attorney general’s decision.
“We think the decision to seek the death penalty rather than accepting a guilty plea to life in prison with no possibility of release will only prolong the trauma of these events for everyone involved,” he said.
When they sought to bar Mr. Sessions from seeking the death penalty, Mr. Saipov’s lawyers had argued that Mr. Trump’s tweets and other statements had politicized the decision.
In addition to the president’s tweets about Mr. Saipov, the lawyers cited a more recent tweet by Mr. Trump suggesting that Justice Department charging decisions should be informed by political considerations, as well as reports that Mr. Trump had considered firing Mr. Sessions for not following his wishes.
“Mr. Sessions works for President Trump and obviously wants to keep his job,” Mr. Saipov’s lawyers wrote. “It defies reality, not to mention all appearances, to believe that he could make a truly independent decision” on the death penalty in Mr. Saipov’s case.
But Mr. Berman’s office, in a court filing on Friday, called the defense’s arguments “speculative and unsupported.” The government said Mr. Sessions and his staff had reviewed Mr. Saipov’s case in accordance with the law and Justice Department policy.
“The attorney general appropriately exercised his discretion in determining that the circumstances of this case — which involve a terrorist attack that caused extensive death and human suffering — justify the ultimate sanction available,” Mr. Berman’s office wrote.
The government said it was “unremarkable that the president possesses strong views concerning the attack at issue in this case, which constituted one of the most horrific acts of terrorism in this country since September 11, 2001.”
Mr. Berman’s office also said it disagreed with the defense’s characterization of Mr. Trump’s tweets “as reflecting a direction to act based on ‘raw political considerations.’”
But even if they did, Mr. Berman’s office argued, Mr. Sessions had made it clear in a statement released on Twitter in August that Justice Department actions “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
The government said Mr. Sessions reached his decision after Mr. Saipov’s lawyers submitted papers arguing for leniency to Mr. Berman’s office and the Justice Department’s capital case unit. They also met with representatives of each office.
Mr. Berman had made his own recommendation to the attorney general, which has not been made public. He received the directive from Washington on Thursday to seek the death penalty, the government said.
Among the factors justifying an execution that Mr. Berman’s office cited were Mr. Saipov’s lack of remorse, the killing of multiple victims and his targeting of a bike path to “maximize the devastation to civilians” and “instill fear in New Yorkers and tourists.”
The government also cited Mr. Saipov’s likely “future dangerousness.” Prosecutors highlighted his “stated intent to continue his attack in New York City had his truck not been rendered inoperable” and his continuing support for the Islamic State.
In a court hearing in June, Mr. Saipov told Judge Broderick that judgments made in the courtroom were “not important” to him because they were “not Allah’s judgments.”
Speaking through an interpreter, he said the Islamic State was “leading a war” and was “fighting to impose Shariah on earth.”