January 17, 2018 / 10:17 PM / a month ago

Accused NY attacker's lawyers propose deal to avoid death penalty

(Reuters) - Lawyers for the Uzbek man accused of killing eight people by speeding a truck down a New York City bike path in October proposed a plea deal on Wednesday in which their client would accept life in prison without parole if prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.

The lawyers for Sayfullo Saipov, 29, made their proposal in a court filing opposing prosecutors’ request on Tuesday that U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick set an April 2019 trial date. The prosecutors had cited victims’ “strong desire for closure.”

Saipov’s lawyers said the requested date would not leave enough time to prepare for trial in a possible death penalty case, and said the fastest way to resolve the case would be for prosecutors to accept their proposed deal.

“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,” the lawyers wrote.

The office of interim U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan, which is prosecuting the case, is expected to make a recommendation on whether to seek the death penalty, though the final decision will be made by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Both Berman and Sessions were appointed by President Donald Trump, who on Twitter called for Saipov to face the death penalty.

Berman’s office declined to comment. A lawyer for Saipov could not immediately be reached for comment.

Saipov, a legal permanent resident of the United States, was arrested immediately after the Oct. 31 attack in which police said he plowed a truck down a bike lane on Manhattan’s West Side. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the deadliest assault on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.

On Nov. 21, Saipov was charged in an indictment with eight counts of murder, 12 counts of attempted murder, one count of providing material support to Islamic State and one count of violence and destruction of a motor vehicle resulting in death. He pleaded not guilty on Nov. 28.

Following the attack, Saipov told investigators he was inspired by watching Islamic State videos and began planning the attack a year earlier, according to a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors the day after the attack.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler

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