Live

Watch CBSN Live

Cesar Sayoc pleads guilty to sending pipe bombs to Trump critics and CNN

Cesar Sayoc pleads guilty

Cesar Sayoc, the Florida man accused of sending pipe bombs to CNN and other prominent critics of President Trump, pleaded guilty Thursday. Sayoc's guilty plea avoids a jury trial previously scheduled for July and Judge Jed Rakoff will hand down his sentence Sept. 12.

Sayoc, 57, pleaded guilty to 65 criminal counts related to the illegal mailing of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including a charge for the use of a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Sayoc tearfully told the court he was "sorry." He detailed how he constructed the pipe bombs by filling plastic pipes with firework powder and attached a digital alarm clock with wires. He included pictures of the recipients in the packages with red Xs marked across their faces.

Cesar Sayoc
Cesar Sayoc, 57, is shown in this courtroom sketch as he enters his plea before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan federal court, on charges in connection with the mailing of bombs to prominent Democrats and other critics of President Trump on March 21, 2019. Jane Rosenberg

Authorities say he targeted numerous Democrats, including former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, the billionaire George Soros, former President Obama and CNN, heightening tensions before midterm elections. Although no bombs exploded, each new report of a device found heightened the tension in the weeks before last year's hotly contested midterm elections.
 Sayoc has been held without bail since his late-October arrest outside a South Florida auto parts store. He had been living in a van covered with stickers of Mr. Trump and showing images of some of Mr. Trump's opponents with crosshairs over their faces.

sayoc-van.jpg
Mail bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc and the van seized by investigators in Plantation, Florida. CBS News

Others targeted by the mailings included former Vice President Joe Biden, California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. Packages were also mailed to CNN in New York and Atlanta.

Prosecutors say evidence against Sayoc includes DNA linking him to 10 of the explosive devices and fingerprints on two of them.

Without a plea deal, Sayoc faced charges carrying a potential penalty of mandatory life in prison. A court filing last Friday didn't indicate which charge or charges the plea would involve.

Erica Brown contributed to this report.