Cleveland bomb suspects are to appear in court on May 7 for a preliminary hearing. Those charged are Douglas L. Wright, 26, of Indianapolis; Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of Lakewood; Connor C. Stevens, 20, of Berea; and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, and Anthony Hayne, 35, both of Cleveland.
U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said the five suspects were indicted on three counts: conspiracy, attempted use of an explosive device to destroy property in interstate commerce, and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction to destroy property in interstate commerce. They could face life in prison if convicted.
The FBI said the five bought fake explosives from an undercover and put them at the base of Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad bridge, a highway bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park on May 30. 13,000 people travel the bridge daily, and the plan was to detonate it during the morning rush hour.
The affidavit details conversations the FBI secretly recorded in which its informant discussed bomb plans with some of the suspects.
In one, suspect Brandon Baxter allegedly said, “Taking out a bridge in the business district would cost the … corporate big wigs a lot of money” because it would cause structural damage and prevent people from going to work.
According to the Tallmadge Express:
The suspects had been associated with the anti-corporate Occupy Cleveland movement but don’t share its non-violent views and don’t represent Occupy Cleveland, organizer Debbie Kline said.
The alleged plotters were frustrated that other anti-corporate protesters opposed violence, Dettelbach said.
Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins, who has served as a liaison between City Hall and the Occupy movement, said May 3 that the charges against the men, who had been associated with Occupy Cleveland, show the group needs to watch for troublemakers.
“This is a horrific example in terms of the arrests of how the movement itself failed to identify and understand the dangerous potential of people affiliated with it,” Cummins said.
Occupy Cleveland spokesman Joseph Zitt said he wasn’t sure the group had the resources to monitor all protest participants for criminal activity.
“The group has not taken any action. It’s something we’re going to have to come together and consider,” he said.
The men had considered different plots, including trying to bring down financial institution signs in downtown Cleveland or attacking other targets, including a law enforcement center, oil wells, a cargo ship or the opening of a new downtown casino, according to the affidavit.
The document also alleges that one suspect talked about being part of group planning to cause trouble during an upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.
Brandon Baxter had previously been quoted at an Occupy Cleveland protest about foreclosures. According to Ohio Media Trackers:
He told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in early March that he felt “the powers that be, whoever they might be—on all levels of government and those who hold corporate power—are not listening, because not enough people are actually taking a stance.” Occupy Cleveland’s Facebook page indicated that Baxter was involved in helping them organize and advertise events as recently as February 2012. Baxter and two of the other alleged co-conspirators — Joshua Stafford and Anthony Hayne — list Occupy Cleveland as their “Employer” on Facebook, where the three list one another as friends.
Occupy Cleveland spokesperson Zitt stated “These people participated in certain aspects of the movement, but once we discovered what was going on, we decided they could not be part of it. I wish we had learned earlier”.
Zitt’s statement is an interesting statement. What did they find out and when did they find it out? May 1? As we noted in our prior story, Anthony Hayne is still listed on the lease to Occupy Cleveland’s warehouse that they were renting.