A Manhattan federal judge on Friday set a trial date and heard a 10-minute rant from accused West Side bike-path terrorist Sayfullo Saipov following a promise by prosecutors that the Justice Department will decide on seeking the death penalty by September.
After U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick scheduled Oct. 7, 2019, as Saipov’s trial date on charges that he used a rental truck to kill eight last Halloween to help the Islamic State, the bushy-bearded defendant raised his hand and was permitted to deliver a 10-minute speech.
“The judgments made here are not important to me because they are the judgments of human beings and they are not the judgments of Allah,” Saipov told Broderick through an Uzbeki translator. “…These are laws that are made up to force upon other people.”
Saipov, allowed to speak by the judge over prosecution objections, also left no doubt about his support for the Islamic State, and Islamic religious law – echoing statements he allegedly made after his 2017 capture.
“The Islamic State in order to impose Sharia on earth is leading a war,” Saipov said. “The Islamic State is not fighting for land, like some say, or oil. They have one purpose and it is fighting to impose Sharia on earth.”
Saipov, 30, of Paterson, N.J., a lawful permanent resident who came to the United States from Uzbekistan in 2010, is accused of wounding 12 as well as killing eight in his rampage in a leased Home Depot truck.
After his arrest, Saipov said he planned the attack to produce maximum carnage, and had wanted to display an ISIS flag on the truck but decided against it because he didn’t want to draw attention to himself, prosecutors say.
President Donald Trump called for the death penalty, but prosecutors have not announced a decision. Defense lawyers are scheduled to make a presentation to Justice Department lawyers on July 23, part of the process of deciding whether to pursue a capital case, and prosecutor Amanda Houle said Attorney General Jeff Sessions will make a decision by September.
Defense lawyers have indicated that Saipov would plead guilty in return for a life sentence, and had urged Broderick not to set a trial date until it was clear a trial would be needed. Prosecutors urged a trial next April, arguing that the public and victims deserved speedy justice.
In addition to eight counts of murder and 12 counts of attempted murder in aid of racketeering, prosecutors added assault with a dangerous weapon charges and six more attempted murder charges in a superseding indictment of Saipov this week. He pleaded not guilty Friday.