The jury in a Manhattan courtroom announced its verdict Thursday in the case of an Islamic State (ISIS) extremist who killed eight people with a speeding truck in a Halloween 2017 rampage on a New York City bike path.
Jurors found Sayfullo Saipov, 34, guilty of 28 federal crimes including murder in aid of racketeering and supporting a foreign terrorist organization. The jury will return to court within days to hear more evidence to help them decide whether he deserves to be executed or spend life in prison.
A death sentence for Saipov, a citizen of Uzbekistan, would be an extreme rarity in New York. The state no longer has capital punishment and the last state execution was in 1963.
His lawyers conceded to the jury that he rented a pickup truck near his New Jersey home, steered it onto the path along the Hudson River and mowed down bicyclists for blocks before crashing into a school bus near the World Trade Center.
He emerged from his truck yelling “God is great,” in Arabic, with pellet and paintball guns in his hands before he was shot by a police officer who thought the guns were real firearms.
The vehicle attack killed a woman visiting from Belgium with her family, five friends from Argentina and two Americans. It left others with permanent injuries, including a woman who lost her legs.
“His actions were senseless, horrific, and there’s no justification for them,” defense attorney David Patton told the jury during the trial.
The defense asked jurors to acquit Saipov of racketeering charges, saying he intended to die a martyr and was not conspiring with the Islamic State organization, despite voluminous amounts of propaganda from the group found on his electronic devices and at his home.
Saipov did not testify at the trial. He sat quietly each day, unlike at a pretrial hearing in 2019 when he insisted on questioning the judge about why he should be judged for eight deaths when “thousands and thousands of Muslims are dying all over the world.”
Prosecutors said Saipov attacked civilians to impress the Islamic State group so he could become a member and appeared pleased with his work, smiling when he spoke to an FBI agent afterward.