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Man suspected of sending parcel bombs to Trump critics charged with 5 crimes

FBI director Christopher Wray said that the Cesar Sayoc Jr used IEDs and warned that they were not hoax devises.

world Updated: Oct 27, 2018 13:52 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Parcel bomber,FBI,IEDs
US authorities have charged Cesar Sayoc Jr, a Florida man, with five federal crimes, including for threatening former presidents, and are searching his home, van and social media accounts to determine his reasons for mailing pipe-bombs to at least a dozen leading critics of president Donald Trump.(AFP Photo)

US authorities have charged Cesar Sayoc Jr, a Florida man, with five federal crimes, including for threatening former presidents, and are searching his home, van and social media accounts to determine his reasons for mailing pipe-bombs to at least a dozen leading critics of president Donald Trump.

Investigators have warned that explosive devices already posted by him could still be moving through the postal system, as two more packages were found after his arrest on Friday following a frenzied manhunt. One package was addressed to Democratic senator Kamala Harris and the other to billionaire and Democratic donor Tom Steyer.

In all, 13 such packages had been intercepted till late Friday. Intended recipients included former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former vice-president Joe Biden and former Obama administration officials Hillary Clinton, John Brennan and public figures such as actor Robert De Niro.

Announcing the arrest FBI director Christopher Wray described the explosive devices as “IEDs” — improvised explosive devices — and cautioned against taking them lightly. “Though we’re still analyzing the devices in our Laboratory, these are not hoax devices,” he added.

DNA samples picked up from two of the packages, including one meant for Obama, and a fingerprint led investigators to identify their consignor, as samples matched those collected from Sayoc by law enforcement agencies before, according to the criminal complaint.

A history sheeter, Sayoc, 56, has been charged with five federal crimes, including interstate transportation of explosives, mailing of explosives, threats against former presidents and others, threatening interstate communications, and assaulting officers. If convicted, he could spend 48 years in prison.

Federal officials did not discuss his motivation or other details saying the investigation was ongoing. But attorney general Jeff Sessions did say the man was “partisan”.

The van seized from him was plastered with pictures of President Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence, and images Clinton and other Democrats in cross-hairs. There is a video of the suspect at a 2017 Trump rally in which he holds up a sign saying “CNN sucks”, a frequent chant at president’s rallies.

“I did not see my face on the van,” Trump said to reporters when asked about his pictures on the van. “I don’t know -- I heard he was a person that preferred me over others, but I did not see that.”

He bristled at suggestions that divisive rhetoric could have been a factor motivating the suspect.

Sayoc has a long history of criminal charges. In 2014, prior to Trump’s emergence as a political figure, he was arrested for making a bomb-threat to a public utility service, according to reports citing online criminal record. There were other charges including battery.

He used to live with his parents in Aventura, Florida, until they threw him out. He had since lived in his van, which bore Trump campaign pictures and stickers and which was seen on news footage being covered under blue tarp by FBI agents before being driven away on a carrier.

First Published: Oct 27, 2018 13:45 IST