BURLINGAME (CBS SF) – A Florida man pleaded guilty in federal court in New York Thursday to mailing 16 homemade explosive devices to 13 prominent critics of President Donald Trump in October, with two of the devices being intercepted at a Bay Area postal facility.
Californians to whom the mailings were addressed by Cesar Sayoc, 57, included Democratic U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, philanthropist Thomas Steyer and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles.
None of the small pipe bombs exploded and some were intercepted by the FBI or U.S. Postal Service workers before they reached the recipients.
Other intended recipients included former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, actor Robert De Niro and the CNN news network.
Sayoc pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff of the Manhattan-based Southern District of New York to a total of 65 counts related to the 16 mailings. He will be sentenced by Rakoff on Sept. 12.
The 65 charges include four sets of 16 counts tied to the 16 mailings. Those charges are 16 counts each of using weapons of mass destruction, interstate transport of explosive devices, conveying a threat through interstate commerce and illegally mailing explosives with the intent to kill or injure another person.
The 65th count is using an explosive to commit a felony. The charges were contained in a document known as superseding information that replaces a 30-count grand jury indictment filed in November.
The charges of using weapons of mass destruction each carry a potential life sentence and the other convictions have maximum potential sentences of five to 20 years in prison.
Two packages containing the devices were mailed to Steyer in San Francisco and intercepted at a U.S. mail processing facility in Burlingame. A device sent to Harris’ Sacramento office was intercepted at a postal facility in Sacramento.
Two packages were addressed to Waters in Sacramento and Los Angeles.
Sayoc was arrested on Oct. 26 in Plantation, Fla., near his white van, whose windows were covered with images critical of CNN, according to the FBI. He was identified in part through a fingerprint found inside one of the packages addressed to Waters.
FBI Agent David Brown said in an affidavit filed the day of the arrest that the packages typically contained about six inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring and material that could be exploded through heat, shock or friction.
The devices were mailed in bubble-wrap-lined manila envelopes giving a return address of U.S. Rep. and former Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz of South Florida.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of Manhattan said in a statement, “For five days in October 2018, Cesar Sayoc rained terror across the country, sending high-ranking officials and former elected leaders explosive packages through the mail. Thankfully no one was hurt by these dangerous devices.”
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