Akron: 1 pleads guilty in bridge bomb plot case

3:47 PM, Jul 25, 2012   |    comments
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AKRON -- One of the men accused in an alleged plot to blow up a Northeast Ohio bridge has plead guilty to charges.

Anthony Hayne, 35, pleaded to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and attempt to destroy a building or structure used in interstate commerce during a hearing in Akron federal court Wednesday.

Sentencing has not been set. His attorney Michael O'Shea says Hayne will take responsibility for his action and cooperate with prosecutors testifying in a hope for leniency, releasing this statement:

"After a fair amount of thought and reflection, Anthony Hayne decided today that he wanted to take responsibility for his individual actions in this case. He has plead guilty and will be cooperating with the Government to provide a complete and truthful summary of what he heard and saw before he was arrested.

He feels terrible for how this whole thing got so quickly way out of control for him. He is very glad no one got hurt."

The other four defendants are still fighting the charges. They are accused of plotting to blow up the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge on Route 82. The men were arrested in April.

"The fact that [Hayne's] taken this deal doesn't mean that he's guilty. It doesn't mean that any of the guys are guilty, what it means is that the government is threatening these guys with life in prison and he was afraid of that," said Josh Ehrlich, a political activist who knew them.

Protestors say the "Cleveland 5" were entrapped, manipulated by the FBI and their confidential informant, who hired the group, and provided them with phony explosives to blow up the bridge.

"None of this would have happened without the FBI placing somebody and creating this to happen," said Gail Stevens.

Gail Stevens, the mother of defendant Connor Stevens, compared the informant to a sexual predator, gaining the group's trust and then using it against them.

"He came in and little by little, he took over their lives and controlled their lives," she said. "And the FBI supported it, and encouraged it."

Defense attorneys for the remaining four suspects told federal prosecutors: prepare for an entrapment defense. But first they are calling for a level playing field. They want access to the FBI internal documents and audio tapes.

"We're going up against the most powerful government in the world, and now we're not going to get documents until two weeks before trial, I mean, it just doesn't seem to be totally fair to us," said Terry Gilbert, who represents Connor Stevens.

Judge David Dowd ruled that prosecutors need to release certain documents August 17, but the rest will be released in September.

The trial for the remaining defendants is set for September 17.

Defense attorneys also questioned the confinement conditions Stevens, Brandon Baxter and Joshua Stafford are facing. The defendants being held, "in the hole," at CCA Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, in segregated custody where they are shackled 23 hours a day, with limited access to visitors and phone calls.

Gilbert says that's because they've been labeled and treated as "terrorists." Judge Dowd requested a written motion about the conditions, saying he'd look into those conditions and they did seem, "improper."

An attorney for defendant Douglas Wright says he is being held in a different facility, and is not experiencing these conditions.

The judge has so far turned down a request to move the trial to a different location.


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