December 6, 2012
THOMAS J. SHEERAN
CLEVELAND — Five men suspected of plotting to bomb an Ohio bridge were indicted Thursday on three counts each, including a new charge of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction to destroy property in interstate commerce.
The indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, who said the men also were charged with conspiracy and attempted use of an explosive device to destroy property in interstate commerce.
The men could face life in prison if convicted of trying to bomb the soaring bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park at Brecksville, south of Cleveland. The bridge also crosses a scenic railway line and a canal tow path popular with joggers and bikers.
The five men, all described as anarchists, were arrested Monday night when they allegedly tried to detonate what turned out to be a dud bomb provided by an FBI undercover informant.
Those charged, all jailed since Monday, are Douglas L. Wright, 26, of Indianapolis; Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of nearby Lakewood; Connor C. Stevens, 20, of suburban Berea; and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, and Anthony Hayne, 35, both of Cleveland.
“This indictment in this case alleges that the defendants took specific and defined actions to further a terrorist plot,” Dettelbach said.
Stephen D. Anthony, head of the FBI in northern Ohio, said the work by a joint team of law enforcement officers reflected a commitment “to be vigilant in its efforts to detect and disrupt any terrorism threat, domestic or international.”
The alleged plotters, described by the government as anarchists, allegedly acted out of anger against corporate America and the government.
All five have been ordered held pending a preliminary hearing Monday, when a federal magistrate will take up the issue of setting bond. The government wants them kept locked up as too risky to release.
Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins, who has served as a liaison between City Hall and the Occupy movement, said Thursday that the charges against men, who had been associated with Occupy Cleveland, show the group needs to watch for troublemakers.
“This is a horrific example in terms of the arrests of how the movement itself failed to identify and understand the dangerous potential of people affiliated with it,” Cummins said.
Cummins said that he became acquainted with Wright last fall as the group set up a protest center in downtown Cleveland.
He said Wright came across as an out-of-town drifter trying to fit into the Occupy movement. The criminal complaint against Wright and the others portray them as trying to incite violence by the Occupy protesters and frustrated when they met resistance.
“The whole group appeared to be together and was constantly moving throughout the crowd expressing displeasure at the crowd’s unwillingness to act violently,” the criminal complaint said. When told by organizers that protesters would submit to arrest peacefully as part of an act of civil disobedience Oct. 21, the men left, one expressing a vulgarity.
While Occupy participants have cooperated with police for months on crime issues, Cummins said the group needs to work on understanding how to monitor those involved.
Occupy Cleveland spokesman Joseph Zitt said the group might take up the councilman’s suggestion but he wasn’t sure it had the resources to do so. “The group has not taken any action. It’s something we’re going to have to come together and consider,” he said.
The Occupy movement said the men were associated with the group but didn’t represent Occupy Cleveland or its non-violent philosophy.
Occupy participants stood aside as police removed the group’s tent early Thursday, leaving about a half-dozen people standing around or zipped up in sleeping bags. The city said the permit for the tent in the heart of downtown had expired.