President Trump revealed Wednesday that Attorney General Bill Barr was seeking the federal death penalty for MS-13 gang member Alexi Saenz, who faces multiple murder changes including for the 2016 killings of two New York teenage girls.
‘The DOJ has also announced that it will seek the death penalty for a blood-thirsty MS-13 leader responsible for the despicable killing of seven Americans, including two teenage girls,’ Trump said in the Oval Office, surrounded by Barr and other law enforcement officials. ‘We think the monsters who murder children should be put to death.’
Saenz was originally brought into custody in March 2017 and charged with murder for the September 13, 2016 killings of Brentwood, New York high school students Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas.
President Trump revealed Wednesday that Attorney General Bill Barr was seeking federal death penalty for MS-13 gang member Alexi Saenz, charged with killing seven people
Attorney General Bill Barr guided the president, law enforcement officials and reporters through what ‘Joint Task Force Vulcan’ has been up to, the group he formed to eradicate the gang MS-13
The day before her 16th birthday, Nisa Mickens’ (left) brutally beaten body was found on a tree-lined street in Brentwood, Long Island, New York. The beaten body of 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas (right), was discovered in the wooded backyard of a nearby home
Alexi Saenz (right) is pictured being taken into custody back in March 2017. Since his initial arrest he’s been implicated in the murders of seven people
The indictment said the girls had been attacked with baseball bats and a machete a week after they had an altercation with MS-13 gang members.
In June 2018, Saenz was charged with additional crimes, according to a release from the DOJ.
They revolved around his involvment in the killings of Oscar Acosta, who was beaten with tree limbs and tied up by other gang members. Saenz, the leader of the Brentwood chapter of the so-called ‘Sailors clique,’ was then called and Acosta was loaded into the trunk of a car and driven to an wooded area where he was stabbed and slashed to death with a machete. His body wasn’t recovered for four months.
Saenz was also involved in the October 2016 murder of Javier Castillo, who the MS-13 members believed to be associated with a rival gang. He was also attacked and killed by machete. His body wasn’t recovered for a year.
Three days later, Saenz and several MS-13 members struck again and murdered Dewann Stacks, who they also suspected was in a rival gang. He was killed with a baseball bat and machetes.
Saenz was charged with a sixth murder in July 2019 – the killing of Esteban Alvarado-Bonilla, who, once again, was suspected of being a rival gang member.
In November 2019, Saenz was charged with a seventh murder, that of 29-year-old Michael Johnson. Newsday reported that Johnson may have been wearing a color associated with a rival gang.
The death penalty announcement was part of a briefing Barr was giving to Trump about what ‘Joint Task Force Vulcan,’ a group Barr set up to eradicate MS-13, had accomplished.
Barr described how MS-13 is unique, explaining that the gang wasn’t driven by commercial interest like the mob.
‘It’s about the honor of being the most savage, bloody-thirsty person you can be and building up the reputation as a killer,’ Barr said. ‘This is in someway a death cult.’
However, he added, MS-13 is involved in human and narcotics trafficking to finance the operation.
But the basic purpose, Barr said, is ‘violence and terrorizing people.’
He then acknowledged three recent moves made by the feds to take on MS-13.
First was to pin terrorism charges on MS-13 leader Armando Eliu Melgar Diaz, who goes by the nickname of ‘blue,’ in a Virginia-based case.
‘We’re using terrorism, which gives us extra strength,’ Trump explained.
They also took down the ‘Hollywood clique,’ as it’s called, which operated in Nevada, California and in the Eastern District of New York, which is Long Island.
Then Barr mentioned how the government was now seeking the death penalty for Saenz.
In New York, a non-death penalty state, capital punishment is rarely pursued.
In 2018, federal prosecutors in New York sought the death penalty for terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov, who killed eight people.
Before that, prosecutors had tried to get the death penalty for Khalid Barnes in September 2009. Barnes was convicted of murdering two drug suppliers, but ultimately got sentenced with life in prison.
The last time a death penalty sentence was carried out in the state dates back to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953, who were executed after being convicted for spying for the Soviet Union amid the Cold War.
But Trump said there was ‘good agreement’ on using the death penalty to punish Saenz.
‘These people murder children and they do it as slowly and viciously as possible,’ Trump said.
‘We will not allow these animals to terrorize our communities and my administration will not rest until every member of MS-13 is brought to justice,’ Trump added, again using the controversial term ‘animals’ to describe the gang members, something he previously took flak for from Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi in 2018.