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Terror in the Streets: The Conviction of Sayfullo Saipov, the Manhattan Truck Attack Killer

Photo bySt. Charles County Corrections

In a shocking turn of events, Sayfullo Saipov, the man responsible for the deadly 2017 terrorist attack in New York City that claimed the lives of eight innocent people, has been found guilty on all counts and now faces the possibility of the death penalty. The verdict, handed down by a jury in a Manhattan federal court, came after just one day of deliberation.

Saipov, a 34-year-old native of Uzbekistan, rented a truck and plowed it into a bike path along the Hudson River in what authorities have described as the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since 9/11. The victims included six tourists, one from Belgium and five from Argentina, as well as a 23-year-old Manhattan computer engineer and a 32-year-old New Jersey financial worker.

The decision to seek the death penalty was initially made during the administration of President Donald Trump, who tweeted after the attack, "SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!" And later, then-Attorney General William Barr ordered federal prosecutors to seek the execution of Saipov if he was found guilty.

However, the current administration led by President Joe Biden has publicly opposed the use of the death penalty. Last year, Saipov's attorneys asked the Justice Department to withdraw the request for the death penalty. But in September, prosecutors wrote to Judge Vernon S. Broderick, stating that Attorney General Merrick B. Garland had decided that the government would continue to pursue the death penalty.

The prosecution argued that Saipov carried out the attack hoping to become a member of the Islamic State. Before the trial, Saipov had asked to hang an ISIS flag in his room at Bellevue Hospital Center. During the trial, an FBI agent testified that a cell phone found in Saipov's truck contained about 90 videos, many related to ISIS, depicting, for example, shootings or beheadings of prisoners and instructions on how to make a homemade explosive. The phone also contained about 3,800 images, many of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, then the leader of ISIS.

If the jury decides on the death penalty, Saipov would be the first person sentenced to death by a federal court during the Biden administration. The sentencing phase of the trial is set to begin next week.

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