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Pipe bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc planned 'terrorist attack' since July, DOJ says

A man accused of sending pipe bombs to prominent Democrats had been planning to send the explosive devices for months, the Department of Justice says.

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Kara Scannell, Evan Perez
Laura Jarrett, CNN
(CNN) — A man accused of sending pipe bombs to prominent Democrats had been planning to send the explosive devices for months, the Department of Justice says.

In a letter sent Tuesday, Geoffrey S. Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the FBI searched suspect Cesar Sayoc's laptop and found documents containing the victims' addresses and return labels similar to those used on the intercepted packages.

"Metadata from the electronic devices indicates that the defendant started planning the attack as early as July 2018," Berman wrote in a letter to Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres, who is presiding over Sayoc's case in Florida.

A file created on July 26 includes the Sunrise, Florida address that Sayoc used as a return address on the packages and his cellphone showed he made searches as early as July 15 for the home address of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the document states.

The suspect's laptop had another document that appeared to contain the return address labels used on the packages that he is accused of mailing as well as lists of the physical addresses of the recipients of those packages and other potential targets, according to the letter.

Sayoc, 56, of Aventura, Florida, is facing five federal charges: interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former presidents and other persons, threatening interstate communications and assaulting current and former federal officers.

He could receive up to 48 years in prison if convicted.

On Monday, Sayoc appeared in court for the first time since his arrest and was formally read his charges. Daniel Aaronson, an attorney for Sayoc, has said he intends to plead not guilty.

Berman, who also called Sayoc's actions a "domestic terrorist attack," is requesting Sayoc be transferred to New York to "face the consequences of his actions" and that he remain in custody pending trial.

"There are no conditions that could adequately protect the public from the defendant and assure his appearance in Manhattan for trial," Berman wrote.

"Put simply, only the defendant's arrest and incapacitation resulting from his detention were sufficient to stop his attack," he also wrote.

A pretrial detention hearing and status conference on Sayoc's removal to New York has been set for Friday.

Last week, authorities intercepted 14 packages Sayoc sent through the US mail system, officials said. None of the devices detonated, and no one was injured. Another package that appears identical to the others was sent to CNN's worldwide headquarters in Atlanta, but it was intercepted Monday at an off-site screening facility.

Among his alleged targets were former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former US Attorney General Eric Holder, California Senator Kamala Harris, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and California Rep. Maxine Waters.

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