Lawyer: bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc was 'sick individual' estranged from Florida family
People who know Cesar Sayoc said they were shocked he's suspected of mailing at least 14 explosive packages through the mail, targeting Democrats. Some describe the man as a church-goer, others as someone who worked with strip clubs. USA TODAY
AVENTURA, Fla. — A lawyer representing the family of Cesar Sayoc, the man accused of mailing explosive devices through the mail, described him as mentally ill and estranged from his family.
Authorities arrested Sayoc on Friday in Florida, accusing him of sending packages to top Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Miami lawyer Ronald Lowy said Sayoc's mother learned about his arrest from her hospital bed, where she is recovering after a surgery.
“She found out about this when she woke up from surgery. She literally was in the bed waking up from the anesthesia,” Lowy said. “My heart goes out to these people because you couldn’t imagine a more decent and loving family. They did everything they could.”
Sayoc's mother and stepfather live in an Aventura condominium that he has listed as his address, but Lowy said Sayoc doesn't live there. He said he doesn't believe he ever actually lived there, although he may have slept overnight at times.
“Cesar estranged himself from the family years ago, has no communication with his father for decades, has told his mother that he hates her,” Lowy said. “He doesn’t seem to recognize reality. He lives in a fantasy world.”
Here's what we know: Florida bomb suspect frequently tweeted about Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis
Lowy said no one expected this from him, although there were indications of problems in Sayoc's life. He said the family believes Sayoc has been mentally ill for 20 years.
“He lives out of his vehicle. The signs of mental illness are clearly there,” Lowy said. “If you’re living out of your car for years you’re sick.”
Lowy said he has represented Sayoc in prior criminal cases.
“And I was the closest in the sense of seeing the legal things that could suggest signs,” Lowy said.
He said Sayoc would act emotionally and react without thinking.
“He would have trouble articulating concepts,” Lowy said. “He doesn’t live life in a normal way.
“You talk to him and he speaks like a 15-year-old, like a child,” Lowy said. “This seems like such a sophisticated crime, I have trouble believing he had the mental capacity to create operating bombs.”
He said making functional bombs isn’t easy.
That, Lowy said, “leads me to wonder of course was he used by anybody else or are these bombs really poorly constructed. These are questions I have as a citizen, as an American.”
The head of the FBI says the suspect arrested in the mail bombs sent to prominent Democrats was found in part using fingerprint evidence and possible DNA. (Oct. 26)
Lowy said he’s represented Sayoc in four criminal cases, including one that involved threats to an electric company.
“But even in that case, it was almost like a joke,” Lowy said. “No one took him seriously because it was said spontaneously while he was trying to get his electricity turned back on.”
Suspect identified: What we know now about the 14 suspicious packages
How was he caught?: A single fingerprint, DNA match
Lowy said Sayoc wasn’t a bomber when he represented him in that case, but he said he trusts the FBI and they evidence they will collect.
“If he is, I think the illness progressed over time and got worse and worse and worse, and there’s a message there,” Lowy said. “We need to treat our mentally ill.”
Lowy said the family is sorry Sayoc would be implicated in such incidents. He said they love their community, their country and believe in democracy without violence.
“How do you express a mother’s feelings when she’s crying in a hospital bed hearing that her son’s been arrested and it’s for one of the most major crimes of the year,’’ he said.