NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Florida man accused of mailing bombs to prominent Democrats and other critics of U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to be held without bail on Tuesday during his first appearance in federal court in New York.
Cesar Sayoc was arrested on Oct. 26 in Fort Lauderdale and agreed in a Florida court appearance last week to be transferred to New York to face five criminal charges.
Sayoc, a former stripper and pizza delivery driver who lived in a white van festooned with right-wing political images supporting Trump and attacking his critics, was arrested following an intense manhunt.
Dressed in a navy blue prison overalls with his gray hair pulled back and knotted at the back of his head, Sayoc appeared respectful and alert in court.
When U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Lehrburger asked him if he understood his rights as explained to him, Sayoc responded: “Yes, sir, a hundred percent.”
Prosecutors had argued before the hearing that Sayoc was too dangerous to be released on bail. But Sayoc’s attorney, federal defender Sarah Baumgartel, told the hearing he would not make an application for bail at this point.
A preliminary hearing in the case was set for Nov. 12.
The mailed bombs and the separate massacre of 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue in late October heightened tensions days ahead of Tuesday’s elections, which will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Congress currently controlled by Trump’s Republican Party.
Prosecutors have accused Sayoc of sending 16 improvised explosive devices. None of the devices exploded before being intercepted and no one was hurt.
The first bomb discovered was sent to billionaire investor George Soros at his home in New York’s Westchester County, and some of the other high-profile targets also live in New York state, including former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Other targets of the improvised explosive devices included former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, among others.
Sayoc faces a maximum 48 years in prison if convicted on the five counts he now faces, including for mailing explosives and threatening the Clintons.
Prosecutors have said Sayoc is likely to face additional charges and penalties from their ongoing investigation.
In a letter to ABC News Sayoc’s mother, Madeline Sayoc, wrote that she had unsuccessfully tried to get him treatment for what she said was long-standing mental illness.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Tom Brown)