A fingerprint on a package sent to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) led law enforcement investigators to arrest a Florida man accused of sending bombs to prominent Democrats and CNN, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Friday.
Authorities earlier Friday took Cesar Sayoc, 56, into custody at an AutoZone store in Plantation, Florida.
In addition to the fingerprint — which matched one on file — Wray said DNA samples taken from a pair of bombs may match a previous sample that Florida law enforcement authorities had taken after a previous arrest of Sayoc on unrelated charges.
“This is phenomenal work with the greatest pressure, under an incredibly tight time frame,” he said at a news conference.
Sayoc (pictured above right) faces five federal charges, including interstate transfer of an explosive device, mailing an explosive device, making threats against former presidents, and threatening assault against current and former federal officers.
If convicted, the defendant could be sentenced to up to 58 years in prison, although federal sentencing guidelines — which judges typically follow — often recommend punishment below the statutory maximum.
“He may have been a partisan, appears to be a partisan. But that will be determined by the facts as the case goes forward.”
As President Donald Trump did earlier on Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions (above left) praised the work of investigators and condemned the incidents.
“This is utterly unacceptable,” Sessions said. “Political violence or the threat of violence is antithetical to our vigorous system of self-government. It is a threat to that respect for law and process that allows our people to accept legislation, elections, court rulings with which they do not agree.”
Asked by a reporter why Sayoc targeted Democrats, Sessions said, “I don’t know, other than what you might normally expect. He may have been a partisan, appears to be a partisan. But that will be determined by the facts as the case goes forward.”
Pro-Trump messages on Sayoc’s van and a bumper sticker reading “CNN Sucks” suggest the man’s motivations were political. He is a registered Republican with a lengthy criminal history in the state of Florida, including allegations he once threatened to blow up a utility company if his power was shut off.
Wray said FBI analysts are still examining the 13 explosive devices that have been sent to the agency’s lab. But he said the devices each had six inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring and “energetic material” that had the potential to explode.
Wray said investigators have not yet determined whether any devices were functional, but he added, “These are not hoax devices.”
New York Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill noted that 113 of the 300 investigators from 56 agencies on the city’s Joint Terrorism Task Force are NYPD police officers. He said the case reinforces the strong interagency cooperation that helps keep the city safe.
“New Yorkers don’t back down. They step up — every single time,” he told reporters.
Sessions vowed continued vigilance against acts and threats of violence.
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“This is a law and order administration,” he said. “We will not tolerate such lawlessness, especially not political violence.”
To anyone else who might be tempted to commit similar acts, Sessions said, “We will find you. We will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
Wray swatted away a question about whether political rhetoric makes violence more likely.
“We’re concerned about people committing acts of violence under any motivation,” he said.
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