January 30, 2023

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NEW YORK — Deliberations, which began Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of killing eight people along a Manhattan bike lane, quickly hit a snag when jurors sent the judge a note asking questions whether he would face new criminal charges if they acquitted him.

The question, just an hour after the jury’s deliberations, was a surprising twist in the trial of Sayfullo Saipov, whose attorneys admit he rented a truck and drove onto the Hudson River trail in 2017, killing eight cyclists and injuring about a dozen others has .

The defense argued that the jury should clear Saipov of certain charges, most notably racketeering, if they find he did not kill people to become a member of the Islamic State group, a US-designated terrorist organization. The note seemed to indicate that some jurors believe the argument applied to all charges.

However, defense lawyers had focused their arguments on the extortion charges in particular, hoping to secure acquittals on some of the 28 counts that could lead to a death sentence. If Saipov is convicted in any of these cases, a death penalty phase of the trial would begin days later before the same jury.

The jury heard evidence for about two weeks, including testimony from FBI agents and numerous victims of the attack.

Saipov, who moved to the United States from Uzbekistan in 2010 and lived in Ohio and Florida before joining his family in Paterson, New Jersey, has been in federal prison since the attack.

The attack ended after the truck plowed through two poles and into a small school bus. Saipov was shot in the lower body by a police officer and injured. Prosecutors said it foiled his plan to go to the Brooklyn Bridge and kill as many people as possible.

After reading the jury’s note aloud, U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick sent the jury home for the day. He told lawyers they could discuss Thursday morning how to respond.

“It’s a complication,” the judge said.

The jury’s mark consisted of three components. In the first, they asked if defense attorneys claimed Saipov committed the attacks but was simply charged with the wrong crime.

They then asked a hypothetical question, wondering if Saipov would face the same charges if he had gone abroad and obtained an ID from the Islamic State group before killing the cyclists.

Finally they asked, “If we find that he didn’t do it because of his ISIS membership and is therefore not guilty, will he be tried again on different charges?”

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