Bridge Plot Suspect Guilty
AKRON, Ohio (AP) – The last of five suspects in a failed plot to bomb a highway bridge near Cleveland was convicted Thursday on all counts.
The verdict followed a three-day trial in which Joshua Stafford of Cleveland acted as his own attorney.
Stafford, 24, was convicted of two counts of using weapons of mass destruction and one count of explosive materials. He is to be sentenced Sept. 11. Under federal guidelines, he could get a prison term between 30 years and life.
Earlier Thursday, Stafford posed questions to himself and testified he was unaware friends from the anti-corporation Occupy Cleveland movement planned to blow up the bridge between Cleveland and Akron.
Prosecutors said Stafford tried to use his cellphone to detonate the explosives, not knowing they were fake.
No bomb went off and no one was injured in the plot. The intended target was a highway bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Cleveland and Akron.
U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach praised FBI investigators who broke up the plot. The government described the suspects as self-proclaimed anarchists who acted out of anger against corporate America and the government.
Agents “were able to not only literally defuse a dangerous situation, but they also were able to catch a dangerous group of violent men before they were able to harm anyone,” Dettelbach said in a statement.
An informant who secretly recorded conversations helped FBI agents foil the bomb plot, and an undercover agent supplied the would-be bridge-bombers with fake plastic explosives, authorities have said.
The four other co-defendants were all active in the Occupy Cleveland movement.
Douglas Wright, 27, of Indianapolis was sentenced to 11 years in prison; Brandon Baxter, 21, of Lakewood to nine years and nine months; Connor Stevens, 21, of Berea to eight years; and Anthony Hayne, 36, of Cleveland, six years.
The defense said the men never meant to hurt anyone and were goaded into the plot by the ex-convict working as an FBI informant. One defense lawyer, Terry Gilbert, said the informant provided the men with money for alcohol and marijuana and “nurtured” the plot.