Government, defense spar on Brecksville bridge bomb-plot sentence

CLEVELAND - Federal prosecutors are seeking up to life in prison for three men who pleaded guilty in a plot to bomb a highway bridge in Brecksville, but the defense asked for leniency.

Both sides filed sentencing recommendations Thursday and Friday with U.S. District Court Judge David Dowd, who will sentence the three on Nov. 19 in Akron. He scheduled a hearing for Monday on the sentencing recommendations.

The device was a dud provided by an FBI informant and no one was hurt.

The government said the plot amounted to terrorism and that the fake bomb should be viewed as a weapon of mass destruction.

"The act of detonating the improvised explosive devices at the base of the Route 82 bridge was meant to convey a message to the civilian population, the corporate world, the financial system, and all levels of government," prosecutors said.

The defense for Connor Stevens, 20, of Berea; Brandon Baxter, 20, of Lakewood; and Douglas Wright, 26, of Indianapolis, said a five-year term is appropriate and that the plot wasn't an act of anti-government terrorism.

"The resulting offense was more an act of vandalism with no defined goal than any allegedly vaguely discernible attempt to affect the conduct of government," the defense said.

Each man pleaded guilty to conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, knowingly attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to damage property with explosives. There was no plea deal.

Prosecutors said they calculated the trio could face 30 years to life in prison, based on the seriousness of the crimes.

A fourth man, Anthony Hayne, pleaded guilty earlier and agreed to testify for the government.

Under the terms of his plea deal, Hayne, 35, of Cleveland, will have the chance to avoid a life sentence. With the plea and offer of testimony for the prosecution, he could face 15 years to nearly 20 years in prison at his sentencing Nov. 20.

A fifth defendant is undergoing a psychiatric exam.

The FBI has said the public was never in danger. The target was a highway bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Cleveland and Akron.

The suspects are described by the government as self-proclaimed anarchists who acted out of anger against corporate America and the government. The defense attorney has called the investigation a case of entrapment, with the informant guiding the way.
 

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