3 Occupy Cleveland bomb suspects plead guilty
Three men who were part of Occupy Cleveland and who were described by authorities as domestic terrorists, pleaded guilty Wednesday to trying to blow up the Ohio 82 bridge that spans the Cuyahoga River Valley in April.
Brandon Baxter, 20, of Lakewood, Connor Stevens, 20, of Berea, and Douglas Wright, 26, of Indianapolis entered their pleas and will be sentenced Nov. 5 and 6. Prosecutors said Wednesday that they will ask for life terms in prison. Defense lawyers will ask for five years.
They had been scheduled to go to trial Sept. 18 before U.S. District Judge David Dowd in Akron. The pleas mean the suspects will drop their intended defenses of entrapment. Their attorneys had claimed that an FBI informant walked them through the crime.
A fourth suspect, Anthony Hayne, 35, of Cleveland, pleaded guilty earlier in July and he cooperated with prosecutors against his compatriots. A fifth suspect, Joshua Stafford, 23, of Cleveland, is undergoing psychiatric evaluation.
The five men, self-proclaimed anarchists according to the authorities, were charged with planting what they believed were actual bombs at the Ohio 82 bridge that spans the national park between Brecksville and Sagamore Hills Township.
FBI agents reported that they foiled the plot with the help of an informant by supplying the men with fake plastic explosives and arresting the five on April 30 as they tried to detonate the explosives with a cellphone. The defense is claiming that the informant “cultivated” the defendants by buying them marijuana and alcohol and “nutured” the men into the plot, according to Terry Gilbert, attorney for Connor Stevens. The attorneys for Wright and Baxter echoed this sentiment. John Pyle, the attorney for Baxter, said the “men couldn’t blow their own noses, let alone blow up a bridge”.
Authorities dismissed this claim, noting the suspects selected the site to attack, bought what they believed were explosives in a hotel room and dug holes at the foot of the bridge to place the devices. He also said they went to a restaurant and tried to set off the bomb with a cellphone.
Authorities said the public was never in danger because the alleged “explosives” were inoperable and controlled by an undercover agent.
Supporters of the men, including some members of Occupy Cleveland were in attendance outside the courthouse. Some supporters wore shirts that said “Expose Entrapment”. Stevens’ brother, Colin, read a statement in supporting the suspects. He called the case “a complex and deeply disturbing picture of political oppression by the state.”