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Man Accused Of Sending Pipe Bombs To Trump Critics Makes First Court Appearance

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The man accused of sending more than a dozen package bombs to high-profile Democrats, critics of President Trump and CNN made his first court appearance today. Fifty-six-year-old Cesar Sayoc could spend decades behind bars if he's convicted. Danny Rivero from member station WLRN was in the courtroom and joins us from Miami. Hi, Danny.

DANNY RIVERO, BYLINE: Hey.

SHAPIRO: I know this court appearance was largely procedural. Tell us what happened in court this afternoon.

RIVERO: Yeah. It was really, like you said, mostly procedural. There wasn't a whole lot of, you know, guilt or innocence talk. Basically Sayoc was formally charged on five counts of federal crimes ranging from threatening former presidents to illegal mailings of explosives. Remember; he was arrested near Miami last Friday. He'd been driving a white van plastered with anti-Democrat, pro-Trump and anti-media stickers. And he'd apparently been living out of that van for - we don't know exactly how long but for some time. In court today, prosecutors basically said they don't want him to have the option of bail because they consider him a flight risk and a danger to other people in the community.

SHAPIRO: What was his demeanor?

RIVERO: So before the hearing actually got started, he was talking with his attorneys. And he was wearing a - he was shackled at the wrists and the ankles, and he was wearing a tan jumpsuit. He didn't say much, but when he talked, he did sound kind of defeated. You could hear his - you could barely actually hear his voice at all. It was quite raspy. Before the proceedings, you could - I caught a glimpse of him tearing up. It looked like his attorneys kind of gathered around to shield him from the view once that started happening. The judge asked him a series of questions. You know, do you understand the charges brought against you? He just kind of nodded. I mean, he looked - you could see he was upset at some point.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

RIVERO: His face kind of turned red. He was tearing up. His upper lip was quivering. He didn't look like he was doing too well.

SHAPIRO: And this was all taking place in southern Florida, which is not where his trial's going to take place. Explain that.

RIVERO: Yeah, so the charges were actually filed in the Southern District of New York. He was arrested in - close to Miami, so that's where the original hearing is taking place. But he will at some point be taken up to New York. The U.S. attorney there is the one prosecuting the case. Many of the package bombs were mailed there, and that office has a long history of prosecuting these kinds of crimes. The trial itself - I wouldn't bet on it happening anytime soon. These cases tend to take years or even longer to go to trial if there's no plea deal.

In the meantime, the next hearing - the judge said it's going to be on Friday here in Miami, so he'll be here at least until then. And at that point, we'll learn whether he'll be released on bail or if he's going to be transferred up to New York for more hearings.

SHAPIRO: All right, that is Danny Rivero, reporter with member station WLRN in South Florida. Thanks very much, Danny.

RIVERO: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.