The “MAGA Bomber” who mailed explosives to President Donald Trump’s critics turned violent on a steady diet of Fox News, Trump tweets, and Facebook, his lawyers claim.
Cesar Sayoc, 57, previously pleaded guilty to sending 16 pipe bombs to news outlets and public figures in October. On social media, Sayoc promoted far-right conspiracy theories and threatened people who were critical of Trump. He faces life in prison for the mail bombings.
But Sayoc’s lawyers argue he was just a man struggling with “cognitive limitations and mental illness” who was manipulated by conservative media and the president’s Twitter feed.
Isolated and abusing steroids, Sayoc lived a lonely life, his attorneys claimed in a Monday filing.
“By 2018, he was living alone in a decrepit and cramped van that had been his home for more than a decade,” the lawyers wrote. “A typical day saw Mr. Sayoc waking up in his van, showering at the gym, and cooking crockpot meals while inside the DJ booth of a strip club before heading off to his second job delivering pizza. As he grew older and more isolated, excessive steroid use increased his feelings of anxiety and paranoia.
“In this darkness, Mr. Sayoc found light in Donald J. Trump.”
Sayoc watched Fox News “religiously at the gym,” the filing continued. He typically ended his evenings watching Sean Hannity’s show. He also began to feel victimized as a Trump supporter, his lawyers wrote. On Facebook, he shared posts about supposed attacks on Trump supporters. When his van was vandalized, he believed it was the work of “anti-Trump forces [that] were trying to hurt him.”
Sayoc’s lawyers pinned some of the blame on Trump. “He began to consider Democrats as not just dangerous in theory, but imminently and seriously dangerous to his personal safety,” they wrote. “President Trump did nothing to dissuade this message.”
They pointed to multiple instances in which Trump told his followers that Democrats were out to hurt them, including an October 2018 rally when Trump said Democrats “destroy people. They want to destroy people. These are really evil people.” Sayoc sent the bombs that same month.
Sayoc, who worked as a Papa John’s pizza delivery man, was also convinced that the left was trying to murder Papa John’s employees over racist remarks by the company’s founder, the filing says. He believed anti-fascists were personally targeting him for pizza-motivated murder, his lawyers wrote.
The culmination of steroid use and political paranoia was a “slow boil” that culminated in Fall 2018, his lawyers claim. As Sayoc told a doctor after his arrest, his obsession with Democrats became “increasingly severe, to the point that he could think of little else.”
Sayoc “resolved that he needed to do something to scare and deter the prominent figures in the media and on the left.”