AKRON, Ohio — The federal trial for Joshua Stafford, 24, continues at Federal Court in Akron with Stafford cross-examining a government witness, a confidential informant, who spent the day on the witness stand Tuesday.
Stafford faces charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
He is accused by the government of being one of five people who attempted to blow up the Route 82 bridge in Sagamore Hills over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park on April 30, 2012.
Four others, Douglas Wright, Brandon Baxter, Anthony Hayne and Connor Stevens, have pleaded guilty to related charges.
Stafford is the only one of the accused conspirators who has gone to trial, serving as his own attorney.
The witness admitted under direct questioning on Wednesday that he was paid by the government to help with the investigation, secretly recording meetings as the plot was being planned and ultimately executed.
On Wednesday, Stafford stumbled through his cross-examination, the judge at times re-wording his questions from the bench and admonishing him to focus on one question at a time.
“It’s difficult for the witness to know what to answer, so ask a question and stop,” said Judge David Dowd.
During his questioning, Stafford has been talking in and out of third person at times, asking questions like, “So Mr. Stafford was not there during any of the negotiations (for the explosive devices, vests, smoke bombs, gas masks, etc …)?”
The witness answered, “No you were not there.”
During direct questioning on Tuesday, the witness admitted to having had a history of convictions on charges that include drug offenses, robbery, passing bad checks and disorderly conduct.
In his cross-examination of the witness on Wednesday, Stafford struggled in his attempt to damage the witness’ credibility by bringing up his record.
Repeatedly attempting to ask whether the witness was granted probation so that he could cooperate with authorities on the investigation, Judge Dowd interrupted, “The agents do not have anything to do with probation, the judge determines probation so the question is not appropriate. Move on please.”
In opening statements on Tuesday, the government claimed that they would show that Stafford helped carry the fake bombs to the base of the bridge, helped set them, helped activate them, and then repeatedly dialed a cell phone expecting to detonate them.
During cross-examination on Wednesday, Stafford asked the government informant, “Did Mr. Wright ever say that he was the one in charge of the devices, to activate them?”
“I believe he did say he activated them, yes,” answered the witness.
“So I wasn’t one of the ones that activated either of the devices?” asked Stafford.
“What I saw was you over the device, initiating activation of the device. I can’t say what Doug Wright did … I can only testify to what I saw and that was you crouched over the device and you activating the device.”
Then, Wednesday afternoon, Stafford offered a “motion to remove the case against me.”
Judge Dowd from the bench finishes Stafford’s motion, “that the government has not proven the charges against you in the three counts of the indictment. Is that right?”
Judge (without hesitation): “Overruled”
Stafford will begin his case tomorrow, but has just advised the court that he has no witnesses to call other than himself.
“Very well then; that’s your witness,” Judge David Dowd responded.