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October 26, 2018

Attorney General Sessions indicates pipe bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc charged with five federal crimes and facing "only" 48 years in prison

Deal enough marijuana, as the Life for Pot website highlights, and you can get sent federal prison for life.  But, according to this statement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the fellow arrested for sending pipe bombs to a dozen prominent politicians and others is, at least for now, only facing five criminal charges and a maximum sentencing exposure of 48 years.  Here are excerpts from the AG's comments today:

Over the past week, more than a dozen suspicious packages have been sent through the United States Postal Service to a media outlet, a Hollywood actor, and at least seven high-ranking current and former political leaders in the Democratic Party.

This is utterly unacceptable. 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, and court rulings with which we do not agree.

This is the central feature of our system of government: you advocate for your beliefs enthusiastically but we peaceably and lawfully comply with the results. Please know that from the beginning this investigative team has made this matter a top priority, focusing their great talents and expertise on neutralizing this threat. They have moved swiftly and professionally, using extraordinary technical expertise, to apprehend the one alleged responsible.  This is a demonstration of the skill, the capability, and determination of our American law enforcement.

So I am pleased to participate in this announcement that a suspect is in the custody of the FBI.  I want to remind everyone that the defendant in this case — as in every case — is innocent until proven guilty.

He has been charged today with five federal crimes, including interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former presidents and certain other persons, threatening interstate communications, and assaulting current and former federal officers.

For these charges, the defendant faces up to 48* years in prison. [*An earlier version of these remarks incorrectly stated 58 years.]

These charges may change or expand as the investigation continues.

This is a law-and-order administration.  We will not tolerate such lawlessness, and especially not political violence....

I want to reiterate that the defendant in this case is innocent until proven guilty. But let this be a lesson to anyone — regardless of their political beliefs — that we will bring the full force of law against anyone who attempts to use threats, intimidation, and outright violence to further any agenda.

We will find you.  We will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.

Regular readers of this blog should know I am much more troubled by people getting sentenced to "life for pot" than I am by pipe bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc facing "only 48" years in federal prison. Assuming the feds have the right guy, I would predict he ends up facing a lot more charges and that he ends up pleading guilty in the hopes of reducing his sentencing exposure. But what the feds might still charge and ultimately accept in any deal will be interesting to watch.

October 26, 2018 at 04:46 PM | Permalink


I'm sure stacked 924(c) charges are coming. The penalty provisions for using a "destructive device" under 924(c) are especially harsh, with the first count carrying a 30-year mandatory minimum and the second count carrying mandatory LWOP. The Eleventh Circuit recently revived the 924(c) residual clause as well, making such charges easier to bring.

Posted by: Anon AFPD | Oct 26, 2018 5:29:15 PM


He should have been in prison already

Posted by: federalist | Oct 26, 2018 6:22:24 PM

In my view, an effective life sentence would be just fine. I would further support changing the law to allow a death sentence for attempted mass murder, with a definition broad enough to include this particular crime. For example, one might define it as an attempt to kill five or more people.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Oct 26, 2018 7:11:05 PM

Anon AFPD, that was my first thought too: a whole bunch of 924(c) alleging destructive deice would make it a virtual mandatory life sentence.

Posted by: another afpd | Oct 26, 2018 7:40:17 PM

But right now its 48 yrs. Before Begay Owis qualified as a crime if violence, tagging lots as a career & armed career offender. Some got 30-40, not far from this guy.

Goes to show how out if line the guidelines are with drugs & Guns or any ammo.

I agree, this guy should if been in prison and needs to go away forever. Death penalty, yes, he needs it.

Sessions finally has a cause....

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Oct 26, 2018 9:02:55 PM

Couple things, I wonder if lack of a trigger makes the destructive device charge harder to prove but regardless I would expect at least one federal charge to stem from each (interstate at the very least) device as well as any device sent to a federal official in Florida.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 26, 2018 11:25:09 PM

@Soronel I agree, feds have several avenues to charge this guy. Lack of a trigger, dont know on that one. From what Ive seen, guidelines are normally open enough to lasso a kangaroo in Australia from America. General in nature. Yes, sent to high ranking officials, that in itself is substantial. I wouldnt want to be this guy, oh boy. A world of hurt forever.

Imagine visitation, phone privelages can be voided in a case like this as well?

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Oct 27, 2018 8:37:43 AM

federalist, the significant push for sentencing reform, especially for low-level drug offenses and for using modern risk-assessment tools, is driven in part by (1) the reality that many persons of color with much shorter rap sheets are in prison, and (2) the concern that frequent prosecution of low-level drug offenders takes up space/time/energy and distracts from persons who pose greater threats.

You have acknowledged point 2 in the past, federalist, but I wonder if you think there is something to point 1?

Posted by: Doug B | Oct 27, 2018 11:34:19 AM

I would say that to the extent that we have an incarceration problem it is an under-incarceration problem rather than one of over-incarceration. The vast majority of charged offenders get off light compared with their provable conduct, not to mention the even larger cohort that are never charged to begin with.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 27, 2018 6:37:43 PM

Given that we have the world's largest incarcerated population, Soronel, and yet you see our problem as under-incarceration, do you think the US has the largest crime problem in the world or do you think other nations have an even bigger under-incarceration problem. If you think the problem is high crime in the US, what do you think makes us so poorly behaved?

Posted by: Doug B | Oct 27, 2018 9:38:34 PM

I honestly don't see enough information about other countries to venture an opinion in any direction there. As for the US I don't believe crime is a terrible problem here; I simply believe things could be even better if we did a better job getting rid of the trouble makers we do catch.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 27, 2018 10:35:05 PM

Wouldn't these crimes qualify as "non-violent"?

Posted by: federalist | Oct 28, 2018 8:27:16 AM

federalist, are you talking about the current or past charges against Sayoc? I think most, if not all, of the current charges against him qualify as violent crimes. The past crimes included battery and domestic violence that would seem to be "violent."

Meanwhile, the latest mass shooter apparently cannot be dismissed as someone we should have obviously locked up sooner, as he apparently did not have a rap sheet other than a 2015 traffic ticket for driving without tags.

Posted by: Doug B | Oct 28, 2018 10:53:47 AM

He's 56 years old. 48 years in prison is life without parole. That seems like enough.

Posted by: Stephen Hardwick | Oct 29, 2018 1:09:03 PM

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