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Blog: Zimmerman, bridge bomber trials start Monday

6:44 PM, Jun 9, 2013   |    comments
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The trial of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, will get underway with jury selection Monday morning in Florida in the Seminole County courthouse, just six to seven miles from where the shooting took place.

And 984 miles due north, in Akron, Ohio, the trial of the fifth bridge bombing defendant will get underway at the same time.

Joshua Stafford, 23, is the last defendant of the five men who planned to blow up the state Route 82 bridge between Brecksville and Sagamore Hills back on April 30, 2012.

The FBI had learned about the five men and gave them fake bombs so there was never any risk but it was frightening just the same.

National attention will be focused on the Zimmerman trial as the shooting and Zimmerman's "Neighborhood Watch" role has ignited protests, death threats, online campaigns, and become the center of national discussion about race, gun laws and self-defense.

For more than a year, supporters of both George Zimmerman and Martin have waged emotionally charged arguments about the deadly encounter Feb. 26, 2012.

Was Zimmerman, an Hispanic, defending himself against an aggressive teen who had begun pummeling him or had he "profiled and murdered" a black, unarmed 17-year-old?

It brings into question Florida's Stand Your Ground law, the Neighborhood Watch programs and other rights. Florida has seen its share of high-profile cases lately, most recently the Casey Anthony trial.

And let's not forget about the 2000 election where it was a month before a recount of nearly six million votes ended with George Bush being declared the winner over Al Gore.

Yes, all eyes will be on Florida but I will be sitting in the media area of the U.S. District courthouse in Akron, watching jury selection get underway in Stafford's trial.

What's interesting here is that Stafford, a self-described anarchist, will be representing himself. U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr. also appointed attorney Timothy Ivey to sit by Stafford's side, since Stafford has no legal education.

Stafford and several of the other defendants were also frequent visitors at the Occupy Cleveland movement on Public Square but thought the Occupy movement wasn't proactive enough.

That's when they secretly formed an anarchist group -- calling itself the Revolutionary People's Party -- and took steps to blow up the bridge after discussing bombing other targets, including a Ku Klux Klan gathering spot and a Federal Reserve Bank, court documents allege.

I am all for the First Amendment and freedom of speech but I must say I am alarmed that such extremists live in Northeast Ohio. But I'm willing to bet that the Zimmerman trial will go on long after the jury renders a verdict in the Akron trial.

WKYC-TV

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