Bond Denied for Bridge Bomb Plot Suspects

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AKRON, Ohio -- Attorneys for four of the five men accused of attempting to blow up the Route 82 bridge in Brecksville on April 30 asked a federal judge on Wednesday to release their clients on bond as they await their trial in September.

Connor Stevens, 21, Joshua Stafford, 24, Douglas Wright, 26, Brandon Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 37, are charged with conspiracy and attempted use of explosive material to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce.

Government attorneys argued that the charges are so serious and the possible penalties so lengthy that the defendants have an incentive to flee if they are released.

They showed the court the actual FBI surveillance video of the men placing what they thought was C-4 explosives at the foot of two of the bridge's pillars, then arming the devices.

But defense attorneys claim the men are not dangerous without the influence of the government's confidential informant who encouraged the plot, financed it, and provided the explosives.

Brandon Baxter's attorney John Pyle asked for him to be released to the custody of his father, repeatedly calling the confidential government informant a "provocateur."

Pyle told judge David Dowd, "They (the defendants) couldn't blow their noses let alone blow up a bridge without the help of the government informant."

Judge Dowd at one point said video of them placing the bombs "seems to be sufficient to justify an order of detention."

Attorney Jennifer Schwartz, representing Connor Stevens, told the court that in two previous federal cases, in which defendants faces similar or even more severe charges, the court gave the defendant's bond.

Wright made four or five attempts to detonate the explosives. Agent Wright testified that he dialed and texted multiple codes, even called the undercover FBI agent who sold them the explosives to make sure they had the correct code.

Andy Hart, representing Stafford, asked for him to be released to Northcoast Behavioral Center where he says they have a lockdown facility. Connor Stevens wants his client released to the custody of his mother in Berea.

Only Anthnoy Hayne's attorney is not filing for his release on bond, because of Hayne's previous criminal record.

Prosecutors spent most of the day Tuesday reading from the transcripts of between 35 and 50 hours of recorded conversations and meetings between the five men.

On the stand, FBI Agent Ryan Taylor testified that, at all times, the plot was planned and carried out by the defendants.

Taylor said the group then decided to go to a restaurant near Cleveland to detonate the bomb. Taylor told the court that it was not important to them to witness the actual explosion, but they thought they would be able to hear it from where they were.

Even if the bridge did not come down, the FBI Agent testified that the defendants felt the explosion would at least close the bridge, and it would be a good experiment into what 8 pounds of explosives can do.

Taylor testified that the plot evolved from putting smoke bombs on a bridge in Cleveland as a diversion while the group tore down bank signs from buildings, to the bombing of the Justice Center, targeting a cargo ship, and ultimately to bombing the bridge in Brecksville.

The FBI Agent told the court that it was Brandon Baxter who first mentioned bombing the bridge in Brecksville.

He said there was no hesitation when the fake C-4 explosives were purchased from an undercover FBI agent, describing a meeting at a local hotel where the defendants arrived wearing gloves, searching for listening devices, even turning up the air conditioning and television to try and drown out their conversation if there were hidden microphones.

Taylor also said that, at one point, the defendants seemed anxious, as if they felt authorities would be coming through the door at any moment. "There was a sense of urgency," he testified.

Under questioning from government, prosecutors Taylor said the group did nothing to protect the general public from crossing the bridge when it came down. There were no cones blocking traffic, no "men working" signs, nothing to try to divert traffic.

Taylor also testified the defendants did nothing to try to prevent foot traffic on the trails underneath the bridge, and couldn't time the detonation to make sure no one was on the bridge at the time.

Wright allegedly said: "Whenever they feel the bridge shaking, they are just going to have to speed up to get off."

Taylor quoted Connor Stevens as saying, "We just committed the biggest act of terrorism in Cleveland since the 1960s," after the bombs were armed.

Defense attorneys for four of the defendants, who are being held at the CCA Correction Center near Youngstown, say the prisons rules allow them only one hour a day to review the recorded evidence. They told Judge Dowd that there was no way for them to be prepared for trial in September unless they have more time to work on their cases, using that an argument for bond.

Judge Dowd asked for both sides to provide briefs by July 8, when he will make a decision.