Suspect arrested after explosive devices sent to Trump critics and CNN
FBI Director Christopher Wray said 13 improvised explosive devices were sent to individuals around the county.
"Though we're still analyzing the devices in our laboratory, these are not hoax devices," he said.
The devices consisted of "roughly six inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, some wiring and what is known as energetic material, which is essentially potential explosives and material that give off heat and energy through a reaction to heat, shock or friction," Wray said
He described the investigation into the suspicious packages as "enormous" in scope and "of the greatest importance."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions began an ongoing Department of Justice press conference by lauding investigators and law enforcement as "the best in the world."
Suspect Cesar Sayoc, who was arrested earlier Friday, faces five federal charges, Sessions said:
- Interstate transportation of an explosive
- Illegal mailing of explosives
- Threats against former presidents and other persons
- Threatening interstate communications
- Assaulting current and former federal officers.
Sayoc faces up to 48 years in prison.
“I want to reiterate the defendant in this case is innocent until proven guilty," Sessions added after describing the charges.
Note: This post has been updated. During the news conference, Sessions said Sayoc could face 58 years in prison. The DOJ later clarified it was 48 years.
When mail bomb suspect Cesar Altieri Sayoc had his electricity turned off in 2002, he grew frustrated with his efforts to convince the power company to turn it back on, his longtime attorney recalled Friday.
“I bet if I threatened to blow up your office you’d turn it back on quickly,” Sayoc’s then-attorney, Ronald S. Lowy, quoted him as saying.
Lowy, who represented Sayoc in the case in Miami, Florida, told CNN his client never intended to make good on the threat. He said he was sentenced to a year’s probation “and allowed to continue with his life.”
Lowy said he represented Sayoc in several subsequent matters, but nothing involving violence or threats of violence.
He described Sayoc, 56, as someone who had “trouble conforming” and “didn’t fit in.”
Lowy said he was not surprised that the devices he is suspected of assembling and mailing to past and current politicians and the Manhattan offices of CNN did not explode. He questioned his former client’s ability to successfully devise and execute such a scheme.
He described Sayoc as a man involved in petty offenses spread out over time.
In one case, Lowy said, Sayoc altered his driver’s license to make himself appear younger because he remained single and thought his age may be hurting him on the dating scene.
“He was embarrassed about his age,” the lawyer said.
Lowy said he recalled Sayoc frequenting the gym and working as a personal trainer at one point.
Lowy said he was in consultation with Sayoc’s family and discussing the possibility of representing him in connection with Friday’s arrest.
Bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc threatened to blow up a Florida utility company and said it would be "worse than September 11th," according to a 2002 police report from Miami Police Department obtained by CNN.
Sayoc “contacted a rep Florida Power and Light Co… and threatened to blow up FPL and that ‘it would be worse than September 11th,’”according to the report.
The document shows an individual reported that a call came in from “one of FP&L customer who threatened to blow up the building if FP&L turned off his light” and that the caller threatened the individual with “bodily harm.”
The report corresponds to a 2002 case in which Sayoc was charged with “bomb/threat to throw.”
See the report:
Bomb suspect Cesar Altieri Sayoc was arrested on April 10, 1999 for possession of a stolen vehicle, but the charges were later dismissed by the District Attorney's Office, according to Matthews Police Department Public Information Officer Tim Aycock.
It’s listed as a voluntary dismissal by the DA, Aycock said.
The Matthews Police Department was the investigating agency.
The arrest occurred when one of their officers “stopped to help a broken-down vehicle and it turned out to a be stolen vehicle,” Aycock said.
Meghan McDonald, with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg District Attorney, said they are prohibited from discussing cases with pending charges. She clarified to say that he has no pending charges in Mecklenburg County.
Sayoc's criminal history includes other offenses such as stealing copper pipes from a Florida Home Depot in 2014 and threatening to "discharge destructive device" in 2002, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.
A senior White House official said President Trump has no intention of calling those targeted with pipe bombs.
Authorities have found 12 packages — addressed to 10 people — in recent days.
Here's the full breakdown of the Democratic politicians and prominent Trump critics who have been sent packages:
- Billionaire investor George Soros: One package, sent to his home in New York.
- Bill and Hillary Clinton: One package mailed to their home in New York but intercepted by the Secret Service.
- Barack Obama: One package mailed to Washington, D.C., but intercepted by the Secret Service.
- Former Attorney General Eric Holder: One package addressed to him but sent to the Florida office of Democratic lawmaker Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
- Democratic US Rep. Maxine Waters: Two suspicious packages: one intercepted at a congressional mail-screening facility in Maryland and a second one found at a postal facility in Los Angeles.
- Former CIA Director John Brennan: A "live explosive device" was addressed to Brennan and delivered by courier to CNN's offices at the Time Warner Center in New York.
- Former Vice President Joe Biden: Two packages found at post offices in Delaware.
- Actor Robert De Niro: One package sent to him at the Manhattan building where his production company is based.
- Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: One package found at a New York City post office. It was also addressed to CNN.
- Sen. Cory Booker: One package, found in Florida.
Authorities are also investigating another suspicious package intercepted in Burlingame, California, that was addressed to billionaire Tom Steyer, according to a law enforcement source.
A lawyer who represented Cesar Sayoc on a number of shoplifting charges in Broward County, Florida, described him as “respectful” and “polite.”
“I am shocked,” Dan Aaronson said. “He was always incredibly polite towards me and treated me with the upmost respect.”
Aaronson did not recall the last time he represented Sayoc or interacted with him but said it was likely within the past one or two years. One of the shoplifting cases involved a suit stolen by Sayoc. All of the cases Aaronson represented him in ended in fines or probation, he said.
Aaronson said he never had a political discussion with Sayoc. He was not aware of Sayoc’s employment history or where he was currently living. He never interacted with a spouse or children of Sayoc’s and wasn’t sure if he had any close family.
Sayoc would call his former lawyer from time to time for “friendly” chats, Aaronson said, and if the alleged bomber were to call him again and ask him to represent him in the expected charges, Aaronson said he would say yes.
The man arrested in connection with the suspicious bomb packages was a student at Brevard College in North Carolina, according to college spokesperson Christie Cauble.
Suspect Cesar Sayoc enrolled at the college in the fall of 1980, Cauble said. He attended classes there for three semesters, but did not graduate.
Security has been heightened at federal facilities around the country in the wake of the suspicious packages, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Friday at a news conference in Calexico, California.
Authorities arrested Cesar Sayoc in connection with the suspicious packages.