As a person who entered the United States legally under the federal diversity visa lottery program, accused Manhattan terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov has the same protections under the United States Constitution that U.S. citizens enjoy, and had to have his Miranda rights read to him, Judge Andrew Napolitano said Thursday.
"It's not a question of whether I like it, it's a question of whether it's required by the constitution," the Fox News senior judicial analyst commented on Fox News' "Fox & Friends" program.
"Though not everybody agrees on this, certainly the president doesn't agree. The Justice Department itself, the people working for [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions, the federal prosecutors downtown decided that under the law they needed to Mirandize him."
The Uzbek immigrant on Wednesday was charged with one count of providing material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically Islamic State, and one count of violence and destruction of motor vehicles causing the deaths of eight people.
According to Manhattan acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim, the first count carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, while the second would make Saipov eligible for the death penalty, if the government chooses to seek that sentencing. Kim said additional or different charges could also be brought.
President Donald Trump late Wednesday called, through a tweet, for the death penalty.
Napolitano told Fox News that Saipov was read his rights because he was "babbling away" and wanted to talk to investigators, even if most of what he was saying was ISIS propaganda.
"They have to tell him, you have a right not to talk and you have a right to a lawyer," Napolitano said. "As long as they say that and he manifests some understanding of it, then he can babble away all he wants."
It also does not matter that Saipov entered the country under the lottery program, because he has the same basic rights under the Constitution as an American citizen, except for three factors, the judge added.
"He can't vote," Napolitano said. "He can't run for office, and he can't have an American passport. In terms of the way he is treated, due process, whether he wants his life or liberty, he has the same right as the rest of us."
Meanwhile, the matter of the death penalty will depend on how Saipov is tried and convicted.
"If he is charged in tried in New York state court, there is no death penalty in New York," said Napolitano. "If he is charged and tried in federal court, consistent with the complaint filed against him by the FBI yesterday, there is a death penalty available in Terre Haute, Ind., which is where the federal death penalty is administered."
Even if Saipov had been planning a larger attack, he is still entitled to his legal rights, said Napolitano.
"The Supreme Court has made that very clear," he said. "We're defending the Constitution. The Constitution was written to protect the people we hate. People we love don't need the protection."
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