COPY-Three bridge bomb plot suspects plead guilty

Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge
Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge

Three men accused of trying to blow up a Cleveland-area bridge went before a judge Wednesday to change their pleas.

Douglas L. Wright, 26, of Indianapolis, Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of Lakewood, Ohio, and Connor C. Stevens, 20, of Berea, Ohio, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and malicious use of an explosive device to destroy the Route 82 Bridge in Brecksville before U.S. District Judge David Dowd.

Anthony M. Hayne, 35, of Cleveland pleaded guilty in July to the same charges.

"Today's guilty pleas demonstrate that when individuals decide to commit acts of terrorism that endanger the safety of our community, they will be held to account," Dettelbach said. "The defendants today made a voluntary choice to plead guilty, the same way they made voluntary choices to try to detonate what they thought were explosive devices they had planted at the foot of a bridge."

"We are pleased these defendants have admitted to their intent to utilize violence, which threatened innocent citizens, to further their ideological views," Anthony said. "The safety of our citizens is and continues to be the FBI's primary focus as demonstrated by this investigation.  The Joint Terrorism Task Force will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to detect and disrupt any terrorism threat, domestic or international."
Hayne, Wright, Baxter, Stevens and Joshua S. Stafford were arrested on April 30.

According to court documents, Wright, Baxter, Hayne, Stevens and Stafford are self-proclaimed anarchists who formed into a small group and considered a series of evolving plots over several months.   

The initial plot involved the use of smoke grenades to distract law enforcement in order for the co-conspirators to topple financial institution signs atop high rise buildings in downtown Cleveland, according to the complaint.  

The plot later developed to the utilization of explosive materials. The defendants conspired to obtain C-4 explosives contained in two improvised explosive devices to be placed and remotely detonated, according to the complaint.  

The defendants discussed various bridges and physical targets in and around the Cleveland, Ohio metropolitan area over the course of several months.  The final plan resulted in the Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge being the designated target.  This bridge crosses from Brecksville, Ohio to Sagamore Hills, Ohio over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, according to the complaint.

The public was never in danger from the explosive devices, which were controlled by an undercover FBI employee.  The defendants were closely monitored by law enforcement.  The explosives that the defendants allegedly purchased and attempted to use were inoperable and posed no threat to the public.  

Stafford's case is pending while he undergoes an examination and competency hearing.

The bridge crosses from Brecksville to Sagamore Hills over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

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