Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek native who drove a rented truck down a Manhattan bike path adjacent to the Hudson River in an ISIS-inspired terror attack that killed eight people, was convicted Thursday by a federal court jury of murder and attempted murder in order to gain entry to ISIS, making him eligible for the death penalty.
He was also convicted of providing material support to ISIS.
Saipov, in a dark jacket and white shirt, wore a mask over his face in court. He bowed his head as the guilty verdicts were read.
The trial, which began in Manhattan federal court earlier this month, marked the first federal death penalty trial of the Biden administration. Jurors will decide next month whether Saipov should face the death penalty.
The jury reached its verdict after about six hours of deliberations over two days. Jurors sent several notes that indicated some confusion about the charges but came to an unanimous verdict on the 11th day of the trial.
Saipov had pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including murder in the aid of racketeering and providing and attempting to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
The truck attack, which was on Halloween, was the deadliest terror attack in New York since Sept. 11, 2001.
Saipov, a native of Uzbekistan who lived in Florida, Ohio and New Jersey following his arrival in the United States, was allegedly inspired to commit the killings by ISIS videos he viewed, prosecutors said. The rental truck used in the Oct. 31, 2017, attack was decorated with an ISIS flag.
Prosecutors alleged that the suspect drove the truck on a bike lane and pedestrian walkway in lower Manhattan, and when the truck collided with a school bus he exited the vehicle holding a paintball gun and pellet gun.
"Moments after Saipov got out of the truck, he yelled, in substance and in part, 'Allah Akbar,'" according to charging documents filed in the case.
He chose Halloween to commit the attack, which required "substantial planning and premeditation," anticipating there would be more civilians on the streets that day, prosecutors alleged, calling it "heinous, cruel and depraved."
"Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov caused injury, harm, and loss to the families and friends of Diego Enrique Angelini, Nicholas Cleves, Ann-Laure Decadt, Darren Drake, Ariel Erlij, Hernan Ferruchi, Hernan Diego Mendoza, and Alejandro Damian Pagnucco," according to court records. Five of the victims were tourists from Argentina.
The defense, which did not call any witnesses during the trial, conceded during opening statements that Saipov carried out the attack but challenged the government's allegation he did it to become a full-fledged member of ISIS. The defense said Saipov did not want to join the terror group -- he wanted to die a martyr.
Saipov has been in federal custody since his arrest.
The Southern District of New York's last capital murder case was against Khalid Barnes, who was convicted of murdering two drug suppliers but was ultimately sentenced to life in prison in September 2009.
The last time the death penalty was carried out in a New York federal case was in 1953 when husband and wife Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed after being convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Aaron Katersky reports: