NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A Florida man accused of sending pipe bombs to prominent Democratic figures last fall entered a guilty plea Thursday in Manhattan.
Cesar Sayoc, 57, sobbed as he entered the plea before a federal judge in New York.
"I'm extremely sorry," he said, adding that he never intended for the devices to explode.
He was accused of sending 16 explosive devices to critics of President Donald Trump, including former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, actor Robert De Niro, multiple members of Congress. Devices were also sent to CNN offices in Atlanta and New York. None of the devices exploded.
The explosive devices began showing up weeks before the midterm elections in 2018. On Thursday, Sayoc told the judge he made the devices to look like pipe bombs and filled them with explosive powder from fireworks.
Sayoc was arrested in October at a Florida auto parts store. He had been living in a van covered with pro-Trump stickers and images of Trump critics and political opponents with crosshairs on their faces.
Sayoc faces at least 30 charges, including five counts of using a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum life sentence.
By taking a plea Thursday, he will avoid going to trial, which was scheduled for July.
He could get life in prison at sentencing Sept. 12 on 65 counts, including using weapons of mass destruction and mailing explosives with intent to kill. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped a charge that carried a mandatory life sentence.
"Did you intend they would explode?" U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff asked on Thursday.
"No, sir," Sayoc said.
"What would prevent powder from fireworks from exploding?" Rakoff asked.
"I was aware of the risk they would explode," Sayoc said.
The first of the bombs was discovered Oct. 22 in a mailbox at an estate in New York City's northern suburbs owned by the billionaire George Soros, a liberal political activist and frequent subject of conspiracy theories.
A device addressed to the Clintons was discovered the following day, followed a day later by a slew of bombs found at the homes or offices of prominent Democrats. One, addressed to former CIA director John Brennan, was sent to CNN in New York.
Others targeted included California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.
Over several days, investigators tracked the packages to a mail center in Florida. Prosecutors said the evidence against Sayoc included DNA that linked him to 10 of the devices and fingerprints on two of them.
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