US mail bomb suspect pleads not guilty in New York

Cesar Sayoc, 57, pleaded guilty to sending crude bombs to prominent Democrats (AFP Photo/HO)
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New York (AFP) - A Florida man accused of sending 16 pipe bombs last month to critics of President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty Thursday in US federal court in New York to all counts.

Cesar Sayoc, 56, is an avowed Trump supporter and registered Republican. He could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted on all counts, according to federal prosecutors.

Sayoc's targets ranged from former president Barack Obama and former vice president Joe Biden to Trump's presidential rival Hillary Clinton, actor Robert De Niro and billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

None of the bombs exploded and most were not delivered to their intended recipient.

US federal judge Jed Rakoff set a trial start date of July 15, 2019.

The charges against Sayoc include five counts of use of a weapon of mass destruction, five counts of interstate transportation of explosives, and five counts of threatening interstate communications.

Allegedly included with the bombs were a print-out or photograph of his intended victim marked with a red X.

Sayoc was also charged five times with illegal use of mail, five times with carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony and five times with use of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Sayoc, who has a criminal history and lived in a white truck plastered with pro-Trump and anti-Democrat stickers, was arrested in Florida five days after the first device was discovered in Soros's upstate New York mailbox, following a massive manhunt.

The episode heightened political tensions in the lead-up to the November 6 US midterm elections, which saw Democrats gain control of the House of Representatives while Republicans retained control of the Senate.

Police found Sayoc's fingerprints and DNA on the packages.

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