NEW YORK (AP) — Relatives of eight people killed in a Halloween terror attack on a New York City bike path spoke sometimes through tears at a Wednesday sentencing hearing for an Islamic extremist, describing their lingering pain and sometimes directly addressing the man convicted in the deaths.
Frank Decadt, father of victim Ann-Laure Decadt, told Sayfullo Saipov that he hoped that “one day you will understand the extent of horror you have inflicted on so many people.”
Marion Van Reeth, who lost her legs in the attack, sat before Saipov in her wheelchair, telling him: “I will never be able to walk like you can.”
As Saipov kept his head drooped and eyes lowered, listening to a translation of the proceedings through earphones, she said: “I have a question for you. After all this time in prison, are you still convinced that your criminal acts against innocent people was the right thing?”
Like others, she expressed hope that someday Saipov would see that his terrorist act was wrong.
Saipov’s sentencing in Manhattan federal court comes after a jury in March rejected the death penalty for the Uzbekistan citizen and onetime New Jersey resident, leaving him with a mandatory life sentence.
Prosecutors urged Judge Vernon S. Broderick to impose a sentence of eight consecutive life sentences — one for each death — and an additional 260 years in prison, according to a presentence submission.
“Saipov is an unabashed terrorist — a proud murderer who deserves no leniency and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” prosecutors wrote.
“After months of planning a vicious terrorist attack, Saipov got what he wanted: brutal carnage of innocent people, lives and families destroyed, and terror in New York City,” they added.
Gabriela Pabla Pereya, the wife of Ariel Erlij, who was among five men from Argentina killed during a bike ride as they celebrated the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation, delivered the shortest statement during the sentencing hearing. She called Saipov a coward and said if he truly wanted God “to accept and love you, go kill yourself.”
Monica Missio, whose son, Nicholas Cleves was killed, told Saipov his death “has completely destroyed my life.”
Saipov, 35, carried out his attack on Halloween in 2017 when he ran his rented truck onto a bike path in lower Manhattan that is popular with residents and tourists.
Five tourists from Argentina, two Americans and a Belgian woman were killed, and 18 others were seriously injured.
Saipov was shot by a police officer and immediately taken into custody after emerging from his truck shouting “God is great” in Arabic and waving paintball and pellet guns in the air.
Prosecutors said he smiled as he asked FBI agents who questioned him in a hospital room after the attack if they could hang an Islamic State group flag on the walls.
At his trial, his family members urged a life sentence, saying they hoped he would realize what he had done and express remorse. They said they wanted him to return to the passive person they remembered him as before he grew obsessed with online propaganda posted by the Islamic State militant group.
A former long-haul truck driver, Saipov moved legally to the U.S. from Uzbekistan in 2010 and lived in Ohio and Florida before joining his family in Paterson, New Jersey.
His lawyer, David Patton, told jurors that his actions were “senseless, horrific, and there’s no justification for them.”
Patton, who did not post a sentencing submission in the public file, did not return an email message Tuesday.
Saipov, who did not testify at his trial, will have the opportunity to speak at the sentencing hearing.