Attorneys for convicted mail bomber Cesar Sayoc claim he watched Fox News 'religiously' and was influenced by Sean Hannity's rhetoric

cesar sayocA sketch shows pipe bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday for a bail hearing.Elizabeth Williams/AP

  • Attorneys for Cesar Sayoc, the 57-year-old man who pleaded guilty to sending improvised explosive devices to several high-profile Democrats and a cable news station, argued that his client watched Fox News "religiously" prior to his acts and was influenced by the "provocative language" from notable commentators, including Fox News host Sean Hannity.
  • Sayoc's attorneys asked for a lowered sentence of roughly 10 years in prison, citing his "series of traumatic events" that pushed him "further and further into the margins of society."
  • The attorneys claimed Sayoc's history of severe learning disabilities, sexual abuse in school, and dependence on steroids had drastically affected his life.
  • They also argued he particularly susceptible to dubious influences from right-wing social media groups and political discourse from Fox News.
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Attorneys for Cesar Sayoc, the 57-year-old man who pleaded guilty to sending improvised explosive devices to several high-profile Democrats and a cable news station, argued in a sentencing memo that their client watched Fox News "religiously" prior to his acts and was influenced by the "provocative language" advanced by some of its commentators, including Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Sayoc faces a potential life sentence for mailing 16 IEDs to 13 targets, including former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, Rep. Maxine Waters of California, and former CIA director John Brennan. None of the IEDs detonated. Sayoc was arrested in October and is currently being held without bail.

Sayoc's attorneys asked for a lowered sentence of roughly 10 years in prison, citing his "series of traumatic events" that pushed him "further and further into the margins of society."

Prosecutors are asked for a life sentence in a sentecning memo filed to the judge on Monday.

The attorneys claimed Sayoc's history of severe learning disabilities, sexual abuse in school, and dependence on steroids had drastically affected his life. They also argued that he was particularly susceptible to dubious influences from right-wing social media groups and the political discourse from Fox News.

"Mr. Sayoc began watching Fox News religiously and following Trump supporters on social media," the public defenders wrote in their sentencing request. "He became a vocal political participant on Facebook, something he had not done previously. He was not discerning of the pro-Trump information he received, and by the time of his arrest, he was 'connected' to hundreds of right-wing Facebook groups."

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"Many of these groups promoted various conspiracy theories and, more generally, the idea that Trump's critics were dangerous, unpatriotic, and evil," the attorneys added. "They deployed provocative language to depict Democrats as murderous, terroristic, and violent."

The attorneys specifically mention Fox News opinion host Sean Hannity, a staunch Trump ally who has courted controversy with his close relationship with the White House.

"Fox News furthered these arguments," Sayoc's attorneys wrote. "For example, just days before Mr. Sayoc mailed his packages, Sean Hannity said on his program that a large 'number of Democratic leaders [were] encouraging mob violence against their political opponents.'"

Sayoc also appeared to center his daily routine around Fox News' coverage. He was said to have watched the network "religiously at the gym, planning his morning workout to coincide with 'Fox and Friends' and his evenings to dovetail with [The Sean Hannity Show]," his attorneys said.

Fox News did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

Sayoc's interest in Trump spanned speeches and written works. Trump's works motivated Sayoc, who credited the business mogul for "saving his life."

"In this darkness, Mr. Sayoc found light in Donald J. Trump," the attorneys wrote. "His infatuation with the President began as something personal, not political."

When Trump decided to run for president in the 2016 election, it had a "profound effect" on Sayoc, who "found a calling for the first time in years."

Following Sayoc's arrest, Trump suggested the acts were terroristic and denounced the violence.

"These terrorizing acts are despicable and have no place in our country," Trump said in October. "We must never allow political violence to take root in America."

Hours before he made the remark, he tweeted that the "'bomb' stuff" was was "greatly" slowing the Republican momentum in the 2018 midterm elections.

"Very unfortunate, what is going on," Trump said in his tweet.

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