NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Uzbek immigrant accused of killing eight people by speeding a rental truck down a New York City bike path in October pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to murder and other criminal charges.
Sayfullo Saipov, 29, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick in Manhattan. A court-appointed lawyer representing him, David Patton, declined to comment on the case after the hearing.
Saipov was arrested immediately after the Oct. 31 attack in which he ploughed 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.
Saipov, a legal permanent U.S. resident, was hospitalized after he was shot by a policeman and arrested.
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.
The most serious charges against Saipov carry the death penalty, though it is not yet clear whether prosecutors will seek it. President Donald Trump repeatedly called on Twitter for Saipov to face the death penalty.
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.
The complaint said Saipov was particularly motivated by a video where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - the leader of Islamic State - exhorted Muslims in the United States and elsewhere to support the group’s cause.
Saipov also said “he felt good about what he had done” and asked for permission to display the flag of the militant group Islamic State in his hospital room, the complaint said.
Saipov’s sister, Umida Saipova, told Reuters in a phone interview earlier this month from Tashkent, Uzbekistan that she believed her brother had been “brainwashed.”
An Uzbek acquaintance of Saipov living in Ohio, Mirrakhmat Muminov, told Reuters that Saipov became religious after moving to the United States in 2010.
Five of the victims were Argentinians who were part of a group in New York to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation. A Belgian woman, a New Yorker and a New Jersey man were also killed.
The next hearing in Saipov’s case is set for Jan. 23.
Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay and Jonathan Oatis