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FBI: 5 men charged in US bridge bomb plot

FBI: 5 men charged in US bridge bomb plot

Five men described by federal authorities as anarchists angry with corporate America and the government were charged Tuesday with plotting to bomb a bridge linking two wealthy Cleveland suburbs.
The men were arrested Monday night after unknowingly working with an FBI informant for months. They were charged with conspiracy and trying to bomb property used in interstate commerce.
"They talked about making a statement against corporate America and the government as some of the motivations for their actions," U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said in announcing the arrests with the head of the FBI in Cleveland, Stephen Anthony.
The alleged plotters researched explosives and obtained what they thought was C-4 explosives. The items, in fact, were harmless and the public was never at risk, because the men got the material from the informant, officials said.
All five had initial appearances Tuesday in U.S. District Court, where Magistrate Judge Greg White ordered them jailed without bond pending a hearing Monday.
The charges carry possible penalties of more than 20 years in prison.
The suspects, with wrist manacles chained to the waist, sat in the jury box with their attorneys and acknowledged receiving copies of the complaint against them and an understanding of their rights.
"Love you, Connor," shouted James Stevens to his son, Connor Stevens, 20, of suburban Berea, at the end of the hearing. The father left court without commenting.
The other suspects were identified as Joshua S. Stafford, 23, and Anthony Hayne, 35, both of Cleveland, Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of nearby Lakewood, and Douglas L. Wright, 26; of Indianapolis.
The target of the plot was a bridge that carries a state highway over part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and a picturesque scenic rail line and canal towpath in the Brecksville area, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of downtown Cleveland.
Organizer Debbie Kline said the men had been associated with the anti-corporate Occupy Cleveland movement but don't share its non-violent views.
"They were in no way representing or acting on behalf of Occupy Cleveland," Kline said in an email canceling the group's May Day protest at a GE Lighting plant in view of the arrests of the "autonomous group" of five.
The alleged plotters were frustrated that other anti-corporate protesters opposed violence, according to Dettelbach, citing the criminal complaint filed in the case.
"It talks about the anger and frustration that these five individuals felt that other people would not support their violent aims," Dettelbach said.
The affidavit filed in court indicated that federal authorities got help from a paid confidential source who had previous robbery and other convictions and was on probation for passing bad checks. It said the informant began making contact with the suspects in October and had recorded conversations with them over the past three months.
The men considered different plots over time, including distracting law enforcement with smoke grenades while trying to bring down financial institution signs in downtown Cleveland.
The men also discussed other potential targets, including a law enforcement center, oil wells, a cargo ship or the opening of a new downtown casino, according to the affidavit. The document also alleges that one suspect talked about being part of group planning to cause trouble during an upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.
The group finally settled on blowing up the bridge, federal authorities alleged.
"The individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views," the FBI's Anthony said in a statement. "The Joint Terrorism Task Force will continue to be vigilant in its efforts to detect and disrupt any terrorism threat, domestic or international."
The announcement of the arrests came as Occupy demonstrators joined Tuesday protests marking International Workers Day, or May Day.
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Franko reported from Columbus, Ohio. Associated Press writer Pete Yost in Washington contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-05-17 06:55 GMT+08:00