One of five men accused of plotting to blow up a Cleveland-area bridge pleaded guilty and will cooperate with prosecutors.
Anthony Hayne, indicted with his four co-defendants in May for planning to destroy a bridge linking Brecksville and Sagamore Hills, Ohio, pleaded guilty today to all three counts he faced before U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr. in Cleveland, according to the prosecution and his attorney, Michael O’Shea of Rocky River, Ohio. No sentencing date was set.
“He decided that he wanted to take responsibility for his individual actions in this case,” O’Shea said in a telephone interview.
Charged with Hayne were Douglas L. Wright of Indianapolis, Brandon L. Baxter of Lakewood, Ohio, Connor C. Stevens of Berea, Ohio, and Joshua S. Stafford, of Cleveland.
They all pleaded not guilty before a U.S. magistrate judge on May 7.
“He agreed to cooperate and to testify,” against the other men, Michael Tobin, a spokesman for Cleveland U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, said today of Hayne in a telephone interview.
The defendants came to the attention of U.S. authorities after a Federal Bureau of Investigation informant met Wright at an October protest, according to an affidavit supporting the initial criminal complaint filed April 30 against Wright, Baxter and Hayne.
The men allegedly considered using smoke grenades to topple signs of financial institutions atop high-rise buildings in downtown Cleveland, prosecutors said in the complaint.
Their plan evolved into one to use C-4 plastic explosives to destroy the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge, which carries traffic on State Route 82 through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, according to the charging documents.
The explosives, which were to be remotely detonated, were controlled by an undercover FBI agent, and the public was never in danger, prosecutors said.
Each man was charged with conspiracy, with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction to destroy property used in interstate commerce, and with attempting to use an explosive device to damage or destroy real property.
Hayne will probably receive a sentence of 15 1/2 to 19 1/2 years if his cooperation is deemed satisfactory by the court, Tobin said.
O’Shea estimated his client’s sentence at about 15 years.
“He feels absolutely terrible,” the attorney said. “He’s very glad no one got hurt.”
The case is U.S. v Wright, 12-cr-00238, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Cleveland).
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