Ohio highway bridge bomb plotter gets 10 years

The Associated Press

AKRON, Ohio — The last of five defendants in a failed anti-Wall-Street plot to bomb a highway bridge near Cleveland was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge David D. Dowd Jr. could have given a life sentence to Joshua Stafford, 25, of Cleveland, after denying a request for leniency.

Stafford’s co-defendants earlier pleaded guilty and received sentences of six to 11½ years. Stafford was convicted in June at a trial where he served as his own attorney.

He was convicted of two counts of using weapons of mass destruction and one count of use of explosive materials in the plot to blow up a busy highway bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Cleveland and Akron.

Prosecutors said Stafford tried to use his cellphone to detonate the explosives, not knowing they were fakes created as part of a government sting. No bomb went off, and no one was injured.

Stafford said during sentencing Monday that he was not allowed to take a lie-detector test that would have shown he didn’t plan to blow up the bridge, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.

The government described the suspects as self-proclaimed anarchists who acted out of anger against corporate America and the government.

Responding to defense objections to a presentence report, the judge said evidence was clear that Stafford was part of a conspiracy “that had as its goal the destruction of the bridge, all of which was an outgrowth of the Occupy Cleveland” anti-corporate movement.

An informant who secretly recorded conversations helped FBI agents foil the bomb plot, and an undercover agent supplied the would-be bombers with fake plastic explosives, authorities said.

Douglas Wright, 27, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to 11½ years in prison; Brandon Baxter, 21, of Lakewood, to nine years and nine months; Connor Stevens, 21, of Berea, to eight years; and Anthony Hayne, 37, of Cleveland, six years.

The defense had argued that the men never meant to hurt anyone and were goaded by the ex-convict working as an FBI informant.