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Three more plead guilty in Ohio bridge bomb plot

Rt. 82 bridge

Three of the five men arrested last May for planning to blow up a bridge near Cleveland, OH, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and weapons of mass destruction charges in a federal courtroom on Sept. 5.

Douglas Wright, 26, of Indianapolis, IN; Brandon Baxter, 20, of Lakewood, OH; and Connor Stevens, 20, of Berea, OH, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and attempted use of an explosive device to destroy property used in interstate commerce.

Anthony Hayne, 35, of Cleveland, pleaded guilty in July to the same charges, while the case against the fifth defendant, Joshua Stafford, is pending while he undergoes an examination and competency hearing.

The five men, who are self-professed anarchists, were arrested on April 30, 2012 after they allegedly considered a series of evolving terror plots over several months under the watchful eye of federal authorities who were running an undercover sting operation. Prosecutors said an undercover FBI employee monitored the plot closely and there was never any danger to the public.

The criminal complaint said Wright, Baxter, and Hayne vacillated over the exact target of their plot. Their initial plan involved using smoke grenades to distract law enforcement so their co-conspirators could topple financial institution signs on top of downtown Cleveland high rise buildings, said prosecutors.

The complaint also quoted one of the men allegedly telling an FBI informant that he and others had been talking about committing "violence and destruction to physical property in a variety of ways in order to send a message to corporations and the United States government."

Ultimately, the plot developed into plan to use C-4 explosives contained in two improvised explosive devices placed at the Rt. 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge near Cleveland and detonate the devices remotely. The span crosses from Brecksville, OH, to Sagamore Hills, OH, over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

 “We are pleased these defendants have admitted to their intent to utilize violence, which threatened innocent citizens, to further their ideological views,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen 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.”