NEW YORK – A man charged with using a truck for the killing of eight people last year at a New York City bike path will face the death penalty in a trial next year, a federal prosecutor said Friday in a case in which the President, Donald Trump has tweeted that the suspect deserves to be executed.
The government filing said that the case against Sayfullo Saipov met a number of legal requirements for a capital case, including the intent to commit terrorism, and “heinous, cruel and depraved manner” in which the victims were massacred.
In a statement, attorney David Patten said he was disappointed that the Ministry of Justice signed off on seeking the death penalty.
“We think that the decision to seek the death penalty instead of accepting a guilty plea to a life sentence without the possibility of release is only prolonging the trauma of these events for everyone involved,” Patten said.
After Saipov’s arrest in the deadliest attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001, Trump tweeted, “the DEATH PENALTY” and “Must move fast. THE DEATH PENALTY.” The tweets were cited in defense papers filed earlier this month that demanded an independent prosecutor to take a decision, with the argument that the Sessions’ fragile relationship with the Trump made it impossible for the ministry of justice to be honest.
Sessions ‘ work for President Trump, and, of course, wants to keep his job,” Saipov, the federal public defenders wrote. “It defies the reality, and not to forget, to all appearances, to believe that he could make a truly independent decision on the question whether Mr. Saipov should face the death penalty, in the knowledge that a decision not to seek the death would inevitably result in a ‘tweetstorm’ of ridicule and scorn of the President and could lead to the loss of his job.”
In a separate filing on Friday, prosecutors said that argument “strains credulity” because there was no evidence that the decision was influenced by politics.
“After fully comply with the law and Justice Manual, the attorney-general properly exercised his discretion in determining that the circumstances of this case – which relate to a terrorist attack caused extensive death and human suffering – a justification of the ultimate sanction available,” the prosecutors wrote.
The 30-year-old Saipov moved to the United States legally in 2010 from Uzbekistan. He lived in Ohio and Florida and worked as a commercial truck driver for more to life recently with his family in Paterson, New Jersey.
Court papers say that after his arrest, he told the authorities that he was inspired by ISIS videos, and that he was still a truck in the attack to inflict maximum damage against civilians. He pleaded not guilty.
The trial is set to begin Oct. 7, 2019. A jury, if it finds Saipov guilty, will be asked to decide in a second phase of the trial-whether he should be executed.
Associated Press Writer Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.