Jury convicts Sayfullo Saipov for killing 8 in 2017 bike path terror attack

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Thursday, January 26, 2023 10:56PM
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A jury found Sayfullo Saipov guilty in the deadly West Side Highway terror attack on Halloween 2017 in Manhattan. Lionel Moïse has the story.

LOWER MANHATTAN, Manhattan (WABC) -- Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek native who drove a rented truck down a Manhattan bike path adjacent to the Hudson River in an ISIS-inspired terror attack that killed eight people, was convicted Thursday by a federal court jury of murder and attempted murder in order to gain entry to ISIS, making him eligible for the death penalty.

Saipov, in a dark jacket and white shirt, wore a mask over his face so he had no visible reaction. He bowed his head as the guilty verdicts were read.

He was also convicted of providing material support to ISIS with death resulting.

Jurors will next decide whether Saipov should face the death penalty and were told to be prepared to return to court for the penalty phase February 6.

A death sentence for Saipov would be an extreme rarity in New York. The state no longer has capital punishment and the last state execution was in 1963. A federal jury in New York has not rendered a death sentence that withstood legal appeals in decades, with the last execution in 1954.

Saipov did not testify at his trial.

He sat quietly each day, unlike at a 2019 pretrial hearing where he insisted on questioning the judge about why he should be judged for eight deaths when "thousands and thousands of Muslims are dying all over the world."

The jury reached its verdict after about six hours of deliberations over two days. Jurors sent several notes that indicated some confusion about the charges but came to a unanimous verdict on the 11th day of the trial.

The defense called no witnesses but said Saipov did not carry out the attack to join ISIS as prosecutors said. Rather the defense said Saipov intended to die a martyr.

Prosecutors said Saipov turned the West Side Highway bike bath into his battlefield and chose Halloween because he thought there would be more people out.

The attack ended when Saipov crashed into a school bus but had that crash not happened prosecutors said he would have continued the rampage on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Saipov's lawyers have said the death penalty process was irreparably tainted by former President Donald Trump, who tweeted a day after the attack that Saipov "SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!"

President Joe Biden subsequently instituted a moratorium on executions for federal crimes.

Until Saipov's trial, Biden's Justice Department, under Attorney General Merrick Garland, had not launched any new attempt to obtain the death penalty in a federal case. But Garland has allowed U.S. prosecutors to continue advocating for capital punishment in cases inherited from previous administrations.

It has been a decade since a jury in New York last considered the death penalty.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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