(Trends Wide Spanish) — A federal jury in New York found Sayfullo Saipov guilty of all 28 counts he faced in connection with the death of eight people he ran over with a truck on Halloween 2017 in an attack that prosecutors say he said to do on behalf of ISIS.
This decision opens the way to a second phase of the trial, in which the same jury must determine whether Saipov, a native of Uzbekistan legally residing in the United States, deserves the death penalty. The lawyers are expected to present their arguments in this new instance of the trial. The death penalty requires the unanimous vote of all 12 jurors.
This is the first federal case in which capital punishment is being debated under the presidency of Joe Biden, who had previously promised to eliminate that figure.
Saipov was convicted on charges of murder in support of organized crime activities, attack with a dangerous weapon and attempted murder in support of organized crime activities, attempted murder in support of organized crime activities, supply of ISIS support material , as well as violence and destruction of a motor vehicle.
The defendant had pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with the deadliest terrorist attack in New York since September 11, 2001.
Two Americans and six foreign tourists died in the attack: a Belgian woman and a group of five Argentine friends who had traveled to New York to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation.
Federal prosecutors claimed during the trial that Saipov knew exactly what he had to do to become part of the caliphate and become a soldier of the self-styled Islamic State.
“This was not just someone who supported ISIS or believed in ISIS. He is someone who wanted to join ISIS because he knew exactly how to do it, just like others before him,” prosecutor Jason Richman told the jury.
Richman recalled Saipov’s post-arrest admissions and his prison writings in the years after the attack, as well as ISIS propaganda and chat messages from a group called “The Caliphate House” that were recovered from his phone and presented as evidence.
In his closing argument, Saipov’s defense acknowledged that his client committed the attack, but disputed prosecutors’ claim that he did it because he wanted to join the terrorist organization.
Lawyer David Patton said it was an attack motivated by religious fervor to please his God and “ascend to paradise” in his religion.
The lawyers did not present witnesses, and Saipov also did not testify in his own defense.
The beginning of the second phase of the trial in which the sentence will be decided is scheduled for February 6.