NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Two and a half months after the deadly Halloween truck terror incident on the West Side, a letter filed by the defendant’s attorneys has made an offer.
The offer says if defendant Sayfullo Saipov is spared the death penalty in the case, he is ready to plead guilty.
On Oct. 31, Saipov allegedly rented a Home Depot truck in Passaic, New Jersey, drove to Manhattan, and left a trail of death and injury along the Hudson River bicycle path.
Federal prosecutors are deciding whether to hit Saipov with the death penalty, while the defense is trying to keep him alive behind bars for the rest of his life.
Saipov was shot by a police officer after his truck hit a school bus.
Investigators said Saipov wrote two notes pledging his loyalty to ISIS.
Authorities said Saipov waived his Miranda rights while in custody at the hospital and admitted to carrying out the attack after being inspired by ISIS videos that he had watched on his phone. He allegedly planned the attack for Halloween in hopes of hitting more people, and intended to continue the attack on the Brooklyn bridge.
Saipov was indicted in November on eight counts of murder, twelve counts of attempted murder, and supporting a terror group. He went on initially to plead not guilty at arraignment.
In court filings, federal prosecutors said a decision about seeking the death penalty would be made by September of this year, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions making the final call.
The government is pushing for a trial to begin in April of next year, saying, “A speedy trial date will provide certainty to victims and show respect for their clear interest in reaching a final resolution as soon as possible.”
Saipov’s legal team responded with a letter filed Wednesday morning, which read in part, “ The most straightforward way to achieve closure would be for the government to accept a plea of guilty and a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.”
The letter continues, “In short, a decision by the government not to seek the death penalty would bring immediate closure to the case without the need for the public and victims to repeatedly relive the terrible events of October 31, 2017.”
President Donald Trump has taken a close interest in the case. The day after the terror, he tweeted that Saipov “should get the death penalty.”
Former prosecutor Michael Cibella said Trump’s input adds intrigue to a big decision.
“I think that’s something that the defense is concerned about, and have reason to get this out into the public and show the public that we’re willing to resolve this case now if we can avoid the death penalty,” Cibella said.
But Cibella also said the willingness of Saipov to accept a guilty plea must be weighed.
“There’s witnesses everywhere, There’s videotape everywhere. So it’s not really a whodunit. It’s a matter of what should happen to him,” Cibella said. “So if you have a client who’s willing to accept responsibility, you have to use that for whatever you can.”
But Jimmy Drake – the father of Darren Drake, a New Jersey man killed in the attack – told Aiello: “Killing that man won’t bring my son back. I have no vengeance that I’m seeking.”