CLEVELAND—Three men pleaded guilty today to three counts each for their roles in a conspiracy to use explosives to destroy a bridge near Cleveland, said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio; and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Cleveland Division of the FBI.
At a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge David Dowd, defendants 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 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 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,” U.S. Attorney 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,” FBI Special Agent in Charge 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, 2012.
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 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.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Duncan T. Brown, Justin E. Herdman, and Thomas E. Getz, following an investigation by the FBI and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Agencies represented on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force include: Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office; Federal Air Marshal Service; Cleveland Police Department; Cleveland Heights Police Department; U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Intelligence; Westlake, Ohio,Police Department; U.S. Diplomatic Security Service; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Customs and Border Protection; RTA Police; Ohio State Highway Patrol; Transportation Security Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Shaker Heights, Ohio Police Department; North Olmstead, Ohio Police Department; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service. Assistance in this case was also provided by the U.S. National Park Service Park Rangers, Sagamore Hills Police Department, Brecksville Police Department, and the Summit County, Ohio Sheriff’s Office.