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Judge rejects NYC terrorist’s last-ditch attempt for death penalty mistrial over unrelated U-Haul truck attack

NY: NYPD stops U-Haul driver rampage

An NYPD cruiser stopped a U-Haul driver after leading cops on a wild chase in Brooklyn, New York, on Feb. 13, 2023. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann/Sipa USA via AP Images)

On the day New York City truck attack terrorist Sayfullo Saipov faced reckoning in his death penalty trial, another man allegedly drove into eight people with a U-Haul truck in a seemingly similar rampage in the neighborhood of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

The New York City Police Department indicated that the timing appears to be a coincidence.

“At this time, we have no indication that there is any terrorism involvement in this incident,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell told reporters at a press conference.

Attorneys for Saipov, however, tried to latch onto the timing in a failed motion for a mistrial.

U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick rejected that maneuver shortly before opening statements kicked off at the penalty phase of Saipov’s trial on Monday afternoon.

Like the weather in New York City early on Monday morning, the sky was clear on Halloween of 2017, the day that Saipov turned a rental Home Depot truck into an implement of terrorism. A jury previously found that he intentionally drove his truck from the West Side Highway into a pedestrian greenway, killing eight people and wounding 12 others. Some of his survivors are expected to testify, as a jury decides whether he should face life imprisonment or the death penalty.

As the penalty phase of his trial kicked off, a prosecutor told jurors that Saipov “has not abandoned his jihad,” adding that the 35-year-old is proud of what he has done. His Home Depot rental truck only stopped after colliding with a special-needs school bus. Saipov was heard yelling “Allahu Akbar,” as he left the vehicle, waving fake but realistic-looking guns. Police shot him and sent him to Bellevue Hospital for medical treatment. Prosecutors say that Saipov asked to hang an ISIS flag in the hospital.

Authorities quickly dispelled fears of parallels between his case and that of the unidentified man apprehended on Monday, though on the surface, the parallels appeared to be eerie.

Commissioner Sewell described the Monday incident as a “violent rampage through Brooklyn,” that left eight people injured.

“Two are in critical condition,” Sewell said. “Two are in serious condition, and four sustained minor injuries. Seven of those people are civilians. One of them is a police officer, who was taking police action during this incident.”

The incident occurred at approximately 10:50 a.m. and authorities emphasize that their understanding of the incident is evolving.

“We are still constructing the events,” Sewell said.

Unlike Saipov, the driver of the U-Haul reportedly kept driving after the collisions with the pedestrians and forced police into a high-speed chase.

“Shoot me,” he shouted at officers, according to the New York Post. “I’m not stopping”

Senior law enforcement sources told the Post that the suspected driver was Weng Sor, a 62-year-old man with no prior arrests but a history of mental illness. Law&Crime could not immediately confirm the identification.

The NYPD and the office of Mayor Eric Adams (D) did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."