Three men sentenced to prison for their roles in Terrorism Plot to Destroy Bridge
Three men were sentenced to prison for their roles in a conspiracy to use explosives to destroy a bridge near Cleveland, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Cleveland Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Douglas L. Wright, 27, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to 11 ½ years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release.
Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of Lakewood, Ohio, was sentenced to nine years and nine months in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release.
Connor C. Stevens, 20, of Berea, Ohio, was sentenced to eight years and one month in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release.
All three men pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and malicious use of an explosive device to destroy property used in interstate commerce before U.S. District Judge David Dowd.
Anthony M. Hayne, 35, of Cleveland pleaded guilty in July to the same charges. He is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.
"These defendants were found to have engaged in terrorist activities and will spend nearly a decade in prison,” Dettelbach said. “These sentences should send a message that when individuals decide to endanger the safety of our community, they will be held to account.”
“In a calculated fashion, these three defendants identified a viable target, purchased what they believed to be military grade explosives and attached those explosives to that target,” Anthony said. “Not until they were safely miles away enjoying a meal did they casually attempt to remotely detonate the device believing they were causing significant damage to the bridge, all in the hopes of furthering their ideological views.
“The Joint Terrorism Task Force is committed to using all lawful techniques to confront and stop any would-be terrorists from committing violent acts against our fellow citizens,” Anthony said.
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.
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 Police Department, U.S. Diplomatic Security Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, RTA Police, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Transportation Security Administration, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Shaker Heights Police Department, North Olmstead Police Department, US Postal Inspectors, 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 and Brecksville Police Department, and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.