FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—Cesar Sayoc, the Florida man accused of mailing bombs to prominent Democrats, will appear in federal court Monday afternoon, the first step in a legal process that could put him behind bars for the rest of his life.
Two attorneys with ties with Sayoc, 56, have clashing views of the fate that awaits him.
“Cesar’s going to prison. There’s no doubt about that,” said Ronald Lowy, who represented Sayoc in previous criminal cases and is close to his estranged mother.
But the lawyer Sayoc called the night of his arrest, Jamie Benjamin, wasn’t so sure.
“Nobody should rush to judgment here,” he told the Daily Beast this weekend. “They don’t have one photo, they don’t have one video tape...They found one fingerprint on a component of one of the packages.”
Federal authorities have said they identified Sayoc through a fingerprint on the package mailed to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), but they also say they found DNA on a package sent to former President Barack Obama that could trace back to the former stripper. And some of the padded envelopes contained spelling errors also found in the 56-year-old’s posts on social media.
Investigators seized the white Dodge Ram van where they believe Sayoc built the crude pipe bombs—a possible source of more forensic evidence. The van, where Sayoc lived on and off for the past two decades, was plastered with pro-Trump paraphernalia, and his social media, which contained derogatory statements about some of the Democrats targeted, including Hillary Clinton.
All told, authorities intercepted 14 packages that were sent to members of Congress, billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer and former Obama administration officials.
According to a criminal complaint, each of the IEDs had a similar design comprised of “approximately six inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring, and energetic material.” Some featured photographs of the intended targets, the faces crossed out with a red X.
Two of the packages passed through a federal mail facility in Opa Locka, Florida, which serves Broward County, where Sayoc lives. The packages were each marked with six identical stamps featuring an image of the American flag. The return address listed a “DEBBIE WASSERMAN SHULTZ,” a misspelling of the Florida congresswoman’s name that also appeared on Sayoc’s social media.
Sayoc has a rap sheet dating back to 1991, which is how he met Lowy. The attorney claims that Sayoc is mentally ill and became a Republican to get revenge on his mother, an ardent Democrat.
But the manager of a pizzeria where Sayoc worked as a delivery person until January has told The Daily Beast that he was “anti-black, anti-gay and anti-Jews” and angrily spouted his white supremacist views.
With no major assets, Sayoc would have been entitled to a federal public defender. But after he was locked up in Miami—hours after finishing a DJ shift at a low-rent strip club—he called Benjamin, who was set to represent him at Monday’s hearing.
In court, Sayoc will have a chance to request bail, which is unlikely to be granted. The court will also determine how long Sayoc will be in Florida before he is moved to New York, where the charges against him were file and where he will eventually be tried.