NEW YORK — Sayfullo Saipov, the man convicted in the 2017 terror attack on the West Side Highway bike path, was formally sentenced to life in prison without parole Wednesday. Saipov was convicted earlier this year of murder in aid of racketeering for providing material support to ISIS, the Islamic State group. For nearly 50 minutes, an unremorseful Saipov doubled down on ISIS propaganda while addressing the court Wednesday.
A survivor who watched her sister die that day stood up and shouted, “The only act of the devil here is the act you did. “”I had low expectations of what he was going to say, so I don’t. .
. I was not surprised at all,” said Alexander Naessens, whose wife was killed in the attack. The words of the 21 survivors and victim family members who spoke at sentencing had no effect on him, though many wanted him to apologize.
“I hope, really, for him, in jail that he will come to a point where he can regret, he can ask for forgiveness,” survivor Aristide Melissas said. Melissas suffered a traumatic brain injury, and his wife had both legs amputated as a result of being struck by the truck Saipov drove onto the West Side bike path. “Just start your life again without legs.
Can you imagine what it is?” Melissas said. “Five and a half years, I have headaches, I have disbalances. I’m doing the best that I can to help my wife, but sometimes it’s a little bit difficult .
. . Because being in a wheelchair without legs is not easy.
“Read More: Sayfullo Saipov to be sentenced to life in prison in West Side bike path terror attack after jury unable to reach unanimous death penalty decisionRachel Pharn was struck and injured that day. She’s been waiting for this opportunity. “I was shaking.
It was the moment I’ve been literally fantasizing about for the last five and a half years,” she said. Saipov made eye contact with Pharn, Melissas and one or two others, but otherwise kept his head down. “I regret deeply and profoundly he could not have found, just in court, the moment to say, here were my convictions, here is maybe still what I believe, but I do feel for you and I really apologize,” Melissas said.
Watch Alice Gainer’s report Convicted terrorist behind deadly 2017 bike path attack hears sentence 02:45 They called him “the very worst of humanity. ” One looked right at him and said, “I don’t care if this monster lives or dies. “One young woman whose father was murdered told him, “I want you to know I despise you,” and a mother whose only child was murdered that day said, “It disgusts me he gets to wake up every day when my son does not.
“A letter from one father read aloud said, “Nothing is worse than living after your son has passed. “Many still struggled to understand why Saipov did this and repeatedly asked why, and many told Saipov his plan failed, saying, “You haven’t been able to spread hatred. “One day before, the group of survivors and victim family members took to the bike path in matching t-shirts in a show of unity where so many were injured and eight were killed.
Another picture was shown in court from months prior. Prosecutors say it was the group reclaiming the crime scene. Read More: Survivors, victims’ loved ones return to scene of deadly West Side bike path terror attack ahead of Sayfullo Saipov’s formal sentencingAbout seven jurors were also in the courtroom to see the case all the way through.
Several family members and survivors came over to shake their hands and thank them. “To watch these victims and their families come in and testify and go through this day after day to make sure that justice is met, it was awe-inspiring,” jury foreman J. P.
Patrick said. Patrick added that during penalty phase deliberations, many jurors were leaning toward the death penalty, but some ultimately decided life in prison was more of a punishment. Some are satisfied with his sentence.
“A life sentence in America is a real life sentence . . .
I think that’s the least he deserves,” Naessens said. For his part, Melissas says he’s moved on from anger. “It’s important to keep faith, to keep faith in humanity, to keep faith in justice and to keep faith in all of us,” he said.
Before imposing his sentence, the judge told Saipov his conduct was among the worst he had ever seen, noting Saipov did not care then and does not care now. .