Plea changes set for 3 in Ohio bridge bomb plot

AP News
Posted: Sep 04, 2012 5:11 PM
Plea changes set for 3 in Ohio bridge bomb plot

CLEVELAND (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday scheduled change-of-plea hearings for three of the four remaining defendants charged with plotting to bomb a highway bridge in Ohio — a development that usually signals plans by a defendant to plead guilty.

U.S. District Judge David Dowd scheduled the hearings Wednesday after meeting with attorneys Tuesday.

Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Cleveland, confirmed the change-of-plea hearings for Brandon Baxter, 20, of Lakewood; Connor Stevens, 20, of Berea; and Douglas Wright, 26, of Indianapolis.

Stevens' attorney, Terry Gilbert, said a guilty plea by his client was possible.

"If so, it will be a straight plea to the indictment, and absolutely no deal or cooperation with the government, with the idea that the judge has a great deal of discretion at sentencing to look at the circumstances, the role of the informant, and my client's age and background," Gilbert said in an email.

Baxter's attorney, John Pyle, also confirmed the hearings but would not comment otherwise. Messages were left for the other defense attorneys.

In July, another defendant, Anthony Hayne, 35, of Cleveland, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the government. A plea change by the trio would leave only Joshua Stafford, 23, of Cleveland, facing trial. He is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation requested by the defense.

Authorities have called the men anarchists, and investigators say the group planted what turned out to be a dud bomb provided by an FBI undercover informant.

The FBI said the suspects bought the explosives — which were actually fake — from the undercover employee and put them at the base of a highway bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, about 15 miles south of downtown Cleveland.

After leaving the park, they tried to initiate the explosives using a text-message detonation code, and they called the person who provided the bombs to check the code when it failed, according to the FBI affidavit.

The five had been active with Occupy Cleveland, but organizers of the movement have sought to distance the group from the men.

The charges against them carry a possible life prison sentence.