The man responsible for killing eight people with a truck on a Manhattan bike path in 2017 has been handed eight consecutive life sentences, two concurrent life sentences and another 260 years in prison for the attack that also left 18 others severely injured.
“The conduct in this case is among the worst, if not the worst, I’ve ever seen,” United States District Judge Vernon S Broderick said on Wednesday.
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The judge cited the unrepentant nature of defendant Sayfullo Saipov who, when given a chance to speak, said the tears of victims and family members in the courtroom were small compared to the blood and tears that those in the Islamic faith have suffered.
Saipov’s sentence came after a jury in March rejected the death penalty for the Uzbekistan citizen and one-time New Jersey resident, leaving him with a mandatory life prison sentence for the slaughter of tourists and New Yorkers on October 31, 2017.
Relatives of eight people killed in the attack spoke through tears during the sentencing, describing their lingering pain and sometimes directly addressing the man convicted in the deaths.
Frank Decadt, father of victim Ann-Laure Decadt, told Saipov he hoped that “one day you will understand the extent of horror you have inflicted on so many people”.
Marion Van Reeth, who lost her legs in the attack, sat before Saipov in her wheelchair, telling him: “I will never be able to walk like you can.”
As Saipov kept his head drooped and eyes lowered, listening to a translation of the proceedings through earphones, Van Reeth said: “I have a question for you. After all this time in prison, are you still convinced that your criminal acts against innocent people was the right thing?”
Like others, she expressed hope that someday Saipov would see that his act was wrong.
Monica Missio, whose son Nicholas Cleves was killed, told Saipov his death “has completely destroyed my life”.
Prosecutors urged Broderick to impose a sentence of eight consecutive life sentences — one for each death — and an additional 260 years in prison, according to a pre-sentence submission.
“Saipov is an unabashed terrorist — a proud murderer who deserves no leniency and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” prosecutors wrote.
The judge followed the prosecution’s recommendation, imposing eight consecutive life sentences and two to run concurrently, though the practical effect of a single life sentence is the same since there is no parole.
Saipov, 35, left a path of destruction behind him with his attack.
Five tourists from Argentina, two Americans and a Belgian woman were killed, and 18 others were seriously injured.
Saipov was shot by a police officer and immediately taken into custody after emerging from his truck shouting “God is great” in Arabic and waving paintball and pellet guns in the air.
Prosecutors said he smiled as he asked agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation who questioned him in a hospital room if they could hang an ISIL (ISIS) group flag on the walls.
At his trial, his family members urged a life sentence, saying they hoped he would realise what he had done and express remorse. They said they wanted him to return to the passive person they remembered him as before he grew obsessed with online propaganda posted by ISIL (ISIS).
A former long-haul truck driver, Saipov moved legally to the US from Uzbekistan in 2010 and lived in Ohio and Florida before joining his family in Paterson, New Jersey.
His lawyer, David Patton, told jurors that his actions were “senseless, horrific, and there’s no justification for them”.