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Trump comments don't limit prosecution of alleged West Side bikepath killer: Judge

The government can pursue the death penalty against Sayfullo Saipov despite prejudicial comments from the president.

This undated file photo provided by the St.

This undated file photo provided by the St. Charles County Department of Corrections in St. Charles, Missouri, shows Sayfullo Saipov. Saipov is charged in the killing of eight people on a Manhattan bike path and injuring many more on Oct. 31, 2017. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Handout

The government can pursue the death penalty against alleged West Side bikepath killer Sayfullo Saipov despite prejudicial comments from President Donald Trump describing him as a “degenerate animal” and calling for his execution, a Manhattan federal judge ruled on Thursday.

Defense lawyers said that Trump’s early and insistent calls for the death penalty prevented the Justice Department from making an independent judgment required by law on Saipov, accused of mowing down eight pedestrians with a truck in an ISIS-inspired terror attack in October, 2017.

But U.S. District Judge Vincent Broderick said there was no evidence that Trump’s tweets — though “inflammatory” and “perhaps ill-advised given the pendency of this case” — overrode the decision making of then Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions and Justice Department officials.

“This assertion is pure speculation made without a scintilla of direct factual support,” Broderick wrote in his 12-page decision.

Saipov, 31, of Paterson, New Jersey, a lawful permanent resident who came to the United States from Uzbekistan in 2010, allegedly used a rented van in the Halloween attack, wounded more than a dozen in addition to the fatalities, and told agents afterward he was inspired by ISIS.

In tweets immediately after the attack, Trump wrote, “NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!” and “Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!”

Last September, the Justice Department — which has a complicated internal review process in capital cases — announced that it would seek the death penalty. Saipov’s trial is currently scheduled for October, but defense lawyers have a request for a six-month delay pending.

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