Trial Date Set for Bridge Bomb Plot Suspects
AKRON, Ohio – All five men accused of plotting to bomb the Route 82 bridge in Brecksville last month appeared before a federal judge in Akron on Thursday wearing orange prison jump suits and shackles.
Brandon Baxter, 20, of Lakewood; Anthony Hayne, 35, of Cleveland; Joshua Stafford, 23, of Cleveland; Connor C. Stevens, 20, of Berea; and Douglas Wright, 26, of Indianapolis, are each charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of attempted use of an explosive.
In a 21-page affidavit released by the government following their arrest, the five so-called “anarchists” are accused of planning to blow up the bridge with plastic explosives to make a statement about corporations and the government.
The men never realized they were sharing the information with a confidential government informant throughout the planning process. Government prosecutors say the men bought what they thought were plastic explosives, and attempted to blow up the bridge on April 30, but the explosives were not real.
On Thursday, prosecutors asked Judge David Dowd to grant a motion protecting the identity of the confidential informant. In their motion, prosecutors claimed releasing the identity of the confidential informant could subject her/his family to harassment at best, and at worst, could result in a case chargeable as witness intimidation.
Judge Dowd granted the order.
Attorneys for four of the five men also indicated they would be filing additional motions requesting their clients to be released on bond before their trial.
The defense attorneys were also each given a box of evidence from the government. Prosecutors revealed in court on Thursday that they have between 35 and 50 hours of recorded conversations, video recorded meetings and video that was taken the night of the attempted attack.
“I just want to start working through the evidence and sit down with Douglas and work through the evidence and see where it takes us from there,” said Tony Veigh, who represents Douglas Wright.
John Pyle, who represents Brandon Baxter, said he would be using entrapment as a defense.
“Entrapment is not something you file by way of motion. You present evidence and do cross-examination, and we finally have some discovery here so we are going to look at tapes for a while,” said Pyle after Thursday’s hearing.
In what became a very awkward moment, Judge Dowd also initially set the trial date for all five on September 11. Attorneys for several of the men, including Stafford’s attorneys, objected to the trial starting on 9/11 because the accusations have been described as terrorist activities.
Judge Dowd eventually rescheduled the starting date for the trial for September 17.
Defense attorneys have indicated they may seek a change of venue, concerned about seating an impartial jury because of the local and national media attention to the case. Dowd, however, said he would consider individually polling each potential juror during a selection process that could take two-to-three days.
Supporters and family members of the defendants were also in court on Thursday but refused comment afterwards.
Attorneys revealed in court on Thursday that four of the five men are being held at the CCA Correctional Center in Youngstown, while one of them was being held in the Trumbull County Jail.