A former male stripper and part-time pizza deliveryman suspected of mailing at least 14 pipe bombs to some of U.S. President Donald Trump’s leading critics, including former president Barack Obama, was due in federal court in Miami, Monday.
The Brooklyn-born Cesar Sayoc, 56, is charged with five felony counts – interstate transportation and illegal mailing of explosives, threatening a former president, making threatening interstate communications and assaulting federal officers.
The case is expected to be moved to New York, where he will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, officials said.
Sayoc has been held without bond since he was taken into custody in south Florida Friday by federal agents after a four-day nationwide manhunt for the person who sent homemade pipe bombs to Trump critics including Obama and former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom Trump defeated in the 2016 presidential race.
Sayoc’s alleged actions have heightened tensions during the closing days of a highly contentious campaign ahead of the Nov. 6 mid-term elections in which Democrats are battling to seize control of Congress now held by Trump’s Republican Party.
A registered Republican, Sayoc’s political views were evident on social media, railing against Democrats, Muslims and liberals in Facebook and Twitter posts.
But Trump’s supporters have accused Democrats of unfairly suggesting that the president was to blame for the bomb scares, and Trump himself accused the press of using coverage of the investigation to score political points against him.
After first calling for unity at a recent White House event, Trump lamented partisan attacks against him and again pointed at the media.
“I get attacked all the time … I can do the greatest thing for our country, and on the networks and on different things it will show bad,” he told the crowd, acknowledging an attendee who shouted “fake news.”
Public records show that Sayoc has numerous arrests over the years for domestic violence, theft and other charges, including the alleged bomb threat against a utility company.
Sayoc was arrested Friday outside an auto parts store in Plantation, Florida, near Miami, and authorities also seized a white van that Sayoc appeared to live in.
The van’s windows were plastered with pro-Trump stickers, the slogan “CNN SUCKS” and images of Democratic leaders with red cross-hairs over their faces, echoing the rancor of one of the most toxic election campaigns in decades.
Fingerprint and DNA evidence helped identify the suspect, officials said, but they were uncertain if additional bombs were made.
The bombs were sent in manila envelopes lined with bubble wrap and consisted of plastic 6-inch pipes packed with explosive material and wired to small clocks and batteries, a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court said.
Some of the recovered parcels contained photographs of the intended recipients marked with a red X.
The complaint accused Sayoc of sending 13 bombs to 11 individuals, starting with billionaire Democratic donor George Soros. A package surfaced on Monday near his home in Katonah, New York.
A 14th package was found on Friday at a post office outside San Francisco addressed to another wealthy contributor to the Democratic Party and liberal causes, Tom Steyer.
All were sent through the U.S. Postal Service system and intercepted before reaching their intended targets without exploding. No one has been hurt.
A public defender listed as Sayoc’s attorney of record in New York, Sarah Baumgartel, could not immediately be reached for comment.
(Writing by Rich McKay; Editing by Nick Macfie)