The man accused of carrying out last month’s New York terror attack, Sayfullo Saipov, pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism and first-degree in a federal court Tuesday.
Sayfullo Saipov, who entered the United States eight years ago through the Diversity Visa Lottery program 2010, pleaded not guilty to a total of 22 murder, terrorism, and racketeering charges, including providing material support to the Islamic State. The racketeering charges are for aiding the Islamic State, which prosecutors treated as an organized crime syndicate.
The 29-year-old Uzbek citizen stands accused of driving a vehicle into civilians in New York on Halloween, killing eight people and injuring at least a dozen others in what was the city’s deadliest attack since 9/11.
Saipov arrived in court accompanied by his lawyer David Patton, wearing a dark blue prison uniform with his feet shackled together, although showed no obvious signs of injury, having arrived in a wheelchair at his preliminary court hearing earlier this month.
Prosecutors claim that Saipov jumped out the vehicle holding a paintball gun and a pellet gun and yelled “Allahu Akbar” before being shot by police. A witness took video of this incident after Saipov got out of the truck.
Prosecutors say Saipov originally planned to drive the truck all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Victims of the attack included five Argentines who were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation, while a Belgian woman and two American citizens were also killed.
While receiving treatment in hospital, Saipov expressed his allegiance to the terror group and even asked to display the group’s flag in his room, telling authorities that he “felt good about what he had done.”
Saipov previously claimed inspired to join the caliphate after watching a video featuring ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asking “what Muslims in the United States and elsewhere were doing to respond to the killing of Muslims in Iraq.”
Authorities also found about 90 videos and 3,800 images of ISIS propaganda on the Saipov’s cell phone, including videos of militants running over a prisoner with a tank, shooting people in the face, and constructing explosive devices.
President Donald Trump has argued that Saipov should face the death penalty, although it is not yet clear whether prosecutors will seek such a punishment.
“We have to get much tougher. We have to get much smarter. And we have to get much less politically correct,” he told reporters at the time. “We’re so politically correct that we’re afraid to do anything.”
The next hearing in Saipov’s case is scheduled for 23 January. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.