The ISIS-inspired terrorist who killed eight people by ramming into them with a truck on a West Side Highway bike path in 2017 was convicted on all counts by a Manhattan federal court jury on Thursday.
The panel’s conviction of Sayfullo Saipov, 34, a radical originally from Uzbekistan, on 28 counts paves the way for the death penalty phase of the trial to begin — when jurors will decide whether or not he be put to death for the murderous rampage.
Over the course of the two-week trial, victims who survived the attack described the horrific and violent scene after Saipov, driving a rented flatbed truck, plowed into as many people as he could in lower Manhattan on the afternoon of Halloween that year.
Family members described from the witness stand how they watched as loved ones struck by the madman were left bloodied on the bike path and ultimately died from their injuries.
One victim who was killed, Ann-Laure Decadt, had been riding a rented bike with family members who traveled from their native Belgium for a New York vacation to celebrate a number of milestone birthdays.
The surviving members of the family testified they heard the horrific sound of an engine on the path behind them just before Ann-Laure was struck.
Seconds later, they saw her lifeless body on the ground, the relatives testified.
“Her gaze was lifeless,” her sister Friedel testified. “She just stared up into the air, and there was lots of blood gushing out of her mouth.”
In their opening and closing arguments to the jurors, federal prosecutors described the grisly violence, but also repeatedly told them Saipov carried out the attack in an effort to join ISIS.
“The Islamic State shall endure,” Assistant US Attorney Jason Richman said in his closing statement Tuesday.”These were his words to tell the world why, why he attacked this city, why he targeted innocent civilians, why he turned a bike path into his battlefield, why he ran them over without mercy.”
“The defendant caused all of this death and destruction to become a soldier of the caliphate, a part of ISIS. The Islamic State shall endure,” he added.
Of the 28 counts Saipov was convicted, nine carry a potential death sentence.
The trial in the coming days will enter the “penalty phase” during which Saipov’s defense attorneys will likely call witnesses in an attempt to humanize him and lobby the jurors to spare his life.
During the guilt phase of the trial, attorney David Patton argued Saipov was inspired by Islamic State propaganda and a radical interpretation of Islam – but that he did not carry out the attack in an effort to join the terror group.
Saipov intended to be killed and to ascend to heaven as a martyr after the attack, Patton told jurors.
“If you commit an attack and you are planning to die, you are not planning on joining an organization. You are not planning to become a member of any organization,” Patton said in his closing statement.
Patton did not dispute that Saipov had committed the attack, but focused on prosecutors’ allegation he did so to join ISIS because that claim is at the heart of nearly all the charges he faced.
Saipov was charged with 26 federal racketeering charges for carrying out the attack in an attempt to join ISIS. Eight of those racketeering charges carry a potential death penalty.
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