Cleveland man guilty of trying to destroy a bridge with explosives
A Cleveland man was found guilty of trying to use explosives to destroy a bridge in Northeast Ohio, 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.
Joshua Stafford, 24, was found guilty of 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 following a three-day trial before U.S. District Judge David Dowd. Stafford is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 11 at noon.
“We all need to thank the FBI and its law enforcement partners,” Dettelbach said. “The evidence in this trial made clear that their actions saved innocent lives. By being diligent, smart and responsible, law enforcement agents were able to not only literally defuse a dangerous situation, but they also were able to catch a dangerous group of violent men before they were able to harm anyone else.”
“This defendant took it upon himself to operate the cell phone he believed to be the device that would detonate two IED devices and cause potentially significant damage to the Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge,” Anthony said. “This defendant’s callous disregard for our community, all in the name of making his own ideological views known, reinforces the need for law enforcement to work diligently to confront and stop terrorists from committing violent acts against our fellow citizens.”
Stafford is the last of five men to be found guilty for their roles in a conspiracy to destroy the Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge. Cars travel over the bridge, which crosses from Brecksville, Ohio to Sagamore Hills, Ohio over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Douglas L. Wright, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to 11 ½ years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release.
Brandon L. Baxter, of Lakewood, Ohio, was sentenced to nine years and nine months in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release.
Connor C. Stevens, of Berea, Ohio, was sentenced to eight years and one month in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release.
Anthony M. Hayne, 35, of Cleveland, was sentenced to six years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release.
Those four men pleaded guilty last 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.
Hayne, Wright, Baxter, Stevens and Stafford were arrested on April 30.
According to court documents, Wright, Baxter, Hayne, Stevens and Stafford were 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.
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.
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.