Cesar Sayoc, the so-called “MAGA Bomber” who mailed 16 crudely made explosive devices to prominent critics of President Donald Trump, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Monday.
The 57-year-old pleaded guilty in March to sending the inoperative bombs to 13 targets—including Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, Robert De Niro, and members of Congress.
“I am beyond so very sorry for what I did,” Sayoc said at his sentencing. “Now that I am a sober man, I know that I was a sick man. I should have listened to my mother, the love of my life.”
While announcing the sentence, Southern District of New York Judge Jed Rakoff said his decision was “no more” and “no less” than what Sayoc deserves. U.S. federal sentencing guidelines recommended life in prison plus 10 years.
With his decision, Rakoff stuck to his reputation as one of the most vocal judges in the country against mass incarceration. The sentence appeared to also be influenced by the defense’s efforts to emphasize Sayoc’s difficult childhood. Sayoc read a statement in court describing parental neglect and sexual abuse at a Catholic boarding school.
Rakoff made mention of the “unfortunate circumstances” that predated Sayoc’s crimes, asking the court rhetorically, “Does any of this matter?” Responding to his own question, Rakoff said: “Yes... within modest limits.”
Despite emphasizing that Sayoc’s crime was an act of “domestic terrorism,” Rakoff said Sayoc “was fully capable of concocting pipe bombs capable of exploding,” leading him to believe that Sayoc’s failure to do so was in fact “a conscious choice.”
Rakoff, however, also noted that the bombs were designed to strike “fear and terror” in the hearts of the victims. At least three of the bombs were sent to the personal residences of the victims. “So who is the human being who perpetrated these horrific acts of domestic terrorism?” Rakoff said in court.
“You send an inoperative pipe bomb to various high-level political figures, intending… that they will react with great fear, and it will be punishment for their ‘wrongful’ political views or deterrent for future ‘wrongful’ political views,” Rakoff said.
The judge referred to Sayoc’s obsession with President Trump as a “sideshow.” “Correlation and causation are two very different things, as the cliché would have it, and very correctly so,” he said.
In their arguments, prosecutors characterized Sayoc’s actions as a “two-week terrorist attack.”
Sayoc crafted pipe bombs out of PVC tubing, black powder, and shrapnel, placed them in padded envelopes and sent them to 13 high-profile Democrats and Trump critics. His targets included: former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Democratic candidates Joe Biden, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris, as well as CNN’s newsrooms in New York City and Atlanta, Georgia.
Three of the bombs—some containing photos of the targets crossed out with red Xs—were intercepted within hours of being mailed.
Rakoff agreed to recommend Sayoc be incarcerated in Florida, his home state, as requested by his attorneys. If he serves his full sentence, Sayoc will be released from prison in his mid 70s.
His sentencing comes on the heels of two mass shootings allegedly driven by white-supremacist ideas in the past two weeks. In Gilroy, California, a white man murdered three people, and injured more than a dozen others, after posting about a far-right book on Instagram moments before the attack. A week later, a white man in El Paso, Texas, shot and killed 22 people in a packed Walmart after allegedly posting a racist manifesto online.