AKRON, Ohio — Three men accused of trying to blow up the Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge were sentenced Tuesday.
The first, Douglas L. Wright, 26, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to 138 months.
Judge David Dowd acknowledged the government would disagree with that punishment because prosecutors were asking for twice that amount — more than 30 years.
“I have found that the defendant, 27 years of age, the lengthy period of incarceration would likely persuade the defendant to not participate in any further criminal conduct,” Dowd said.
Wright’s attorney told the court: “This young man is not a cold-blooded terrorist.”
Wright later addressed the court, saying, “I was wanting to apologize to even have to come before you on these charges. I want to apologize to the community, everybody in the Cleveland, Akron area. I wanted to apologize to my friends and family for having to put everybody through this.”
Wright then thanked his friends for supporting him since his arrest.
“I take full responsibility for my actions.”
Next up was Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of Lakewood, Ohio.
He was sentenced to 117 months, much shorter than the prosecutor-recommended 300 months.
Speaking about Baxter, defense attorney John Pyle said this of his client:
“The government has every right, every duty to trap terrorists. I don’t dispute that for one second. I grew up in a country where farmers trap destructive rodents; they sometimes trap curious cats. Brandon Baxter is more a curious stray cat than a destructive rodent.”
Pyle also argued that his client was not “intimately involved” in the planning of the plot.
“He was there, he was involved in the discussions, and then he drifted off,” Pyle said.
Wendy Baxter became emotional when speaking of her son.
“I’m very shocked and appalled. Brand is a very loving, giving, gifted child. It breaks my heart.”
Andy Baxter shared similar sentiments about his son, at one point becoming angry on the witness stand and blaming the government for being an “instigator.”
Baxter later addressed the court, saying, “I would like to acknowledge the fact that I recognize and understand that if the devices were real, this would not be a victimless crime. I would like to apologize to the people in the communities that use the Route 82 bridge on a regular basis. If this had gone through, this would have been a detriment to everybody.”
Baxter also expressed remorse to his family and friends.
He also said this of his punishment: “I plan on using my time in incarceration to better myself.”
Meanwhile, Connor C. Stevens, 20, of Berea, was sentenced to 97 months in jail, or a little over eight years. Prosecutors had recommended 228 months.
Before sentencing, Stevens called the plot “an insane act of aggression” and asked that “the people of Brecksville…to find it in their hearts to forgive me.”
“Every day of my life, I am filled with sorrow reflecting on the act that brought me here,” said Stevens. “An act of blind violence. Endangering the life of human beings is intolerable, and for that I take responsibility.”
Stevens’ defense attorney, Terry Gilbert, said he took a personal interest in the case, in that he and his family have attended Occupy Cleveland protests but never felt any threat of violence.
Gilbert said Stevens was very involved in Occupy and didn’t believe in violence. But when it disbanded, he had problems with drugs and alcohol, had no job and no place to live. Gilbert said Stevens had very little involvement in the plot, and had backed out of it.
“They were all talking amongst themselves that they didn’t think Connor would go through with it, because Connor wasn’t even involved,” said Gilbert. “He was just around.”
The three men had all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and malicious use of an explosive device to destroy property used in interstate commerce, back in September.
In July, Anthony M. Hayne, 35, of Cleveland, pleaded guilty to the same charges.
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