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Accused bomber case set to go to jury

10:35 AM, Jun 13, 2013   |    comments
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AKRON -- Bridge bomber trial is in its fourth day and defendant Joshua Stafford took the stand. He is representing himself and asking himself questions.

The jury is now expected to get the case this afternoon, following closing arguments by both sides.

This morning, Stafford testified for one hour and one minute.

He is accused of helping four others try to blow up the state Route 82 bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

He took the stand in his own defense just after 9 a.m. and stepped down just after 10 a.m.

When cross-examined by the prosecution, he said he had heard co-defendant Douglas Wright talk about explosives and using C-4, an explosive.

Stafford admits to prosecutor that he was carrying a toolbox-shaped box to the state Route 82 bridge but says he thought they were going to "tag" pillars. "Tagging" is spray-painting designs or names on surfaces.

He said he only agreed to carry the box and "tag" the pillar because he was promised food at Applebee's and a pack of cigarettes.

Stafford said he thought Douglas Wright was "not serious" when Wright said he would be bringing C-4 explosives to blow up the state Route 82 bridge.

First thing Thursday morning, in a white, long-sleeved shirt and black trousers with long, brown curly hair reaching to his shoulders, Stafford, 24, began questioning himself. Stafford is representing himself in this trial.

"Because I didn't hear exactly what he said when he explained the plot," he said, after asking himself  if he heard what the other four were planning on doing.

Did anyone other than Doug Wright say anything about explosives at any time? Stafford said no, absolutely not.

Stafford said that, at no point in time, did anyone or Doug Wright say anything about doing something like the incident on April 30.

"I don't like hurting people...I just don't, people shouldn't be hurt for any reason...except in self-defense," Stafford said.

On April 30, 2012, five men were arrested in what the FBI says was a failed plot to bring down the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge on State Route 82 over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Brecksville and Sagamore Hills.

Stafford is asking questions of himself while sitting on the witness stand.

Stafford said the Occupy Movement is "to me, was really a peaceful way to help out the community.....often we fed the homeless, um, helped out with different things...community garden projects...just normal things that a citizen would do."

He also said they would do painting projects...or "tagging or graphing" which he described as "public art."

He asked himself was there any point in time the confidential informant gave him a way out? "No, never," Staffod replied emphatically.

"To be honest, (Douglas Wright) sounded frantic, like he was moving around a lot," Stafford said, while describing a phone call the morning of April 30, 2012. Wright had called Stafford to come to the meeting place.

"No, I did not," Stafford replied, when he asked himself if he knew in advance what was to happen that day at the bridge. "I didn't think Douglas Wiright was capable of doing such a thing (blowing up a bridge)."

Stafford said he left his house to meet Wright "just to help with his well-being...to help a frantic friend."

"There is no point in time in even outside of the investigation that a cell phone was going to be used in a destructive action..." Stafford said.

Stafford stated that he had never heard that any type of explosive device was going to be used and said he had never seen an IED until he was in Dowd's courtroom on Wednesday (June 12, 2013).

He asked himself if he ever thought he was to be part of blowing up a bridge, to which he replied, "No, absolutely not."

Stafford said he thought he was going to do tagging or a "painting action" and that it was a peaceful action and did not know exactly what was supposed to take place..."maybe stencil or spray-paint what we felt at that point in time..."

Stafford thought someone else was bringing the stencils that day so he did not bring any.

Stafford said the confidential informant would feed him if he helped move these boxes, and also buy him a pack of cigarettes. Stafford said he was hungry and that he did smoke and "...he promised me Applebee's if I helped him..."

He said he didn't believe any of his co-defendants would ever do something like blow up a bridge.

Stafford said he was at Applebee's that day "...typing in the numbers that he was told to type into the cell phone..." and didn't hink it would do any harm because "...how can typing numbers into a cell phone hurt anything..."

Stafford said he believes that an "anarchist" is against the government and that doesn't mean an anarchist doesn't love his country but that he is just against the government of the country. 

The FBI revealed the arrests in a May 1, 2012, press conference.

The five were Stafford; Anthony Hayne, 35, of Cleveland; Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of Lakewood; Connor Stevens, 20, of Berea; and Douglas L. Wright, 26; of Indianapolis.

The FBI says the five are all self-proclaimed anarchists. The five were under close police surveillance. The FBI says the group purchased two inoperable improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from an undercover agent. The FBI stressed the devices were inert.

To date, the other four defendants have landed prison terms of six to 11 years. All were charged with use of weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy.

Stafford has pleaded not guilty to the three charges against him: conspiracy with four others to procure weapons of mass destruction; knowingly used weapons of mass destruction, specifically IED's composed of C-4; and maliciously attempting to detroy the Brecksville high-level bridge.

The men had ties to the Occupy Movement but decided it wasn't proactive enough, so 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.

The planned act of terrorism was to coincide with May 1 antigovernment, anti-establishment protests planned in Cleveland and other U.S. cities. The bombs the men purchased were fake.

They were arrested April 30 after three members of the group planted the two inert C-4 explosive devices at the base of the Route 82 bridge.

Earlier this year, Dowd held a competency hearing for Stafford. Dowd ruled Stafford mentally fit for trial after hearing from psychologists who said Stafford is suicidal, depressed and wary of a dangerous world.

Stay with wkyc.com for updates.

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