One of five Ohio bomb plot suspects pleads guilty
One of five self-described anarchists accused of attempting to blow up a four-lane highway bridge near Cleveland in April pleaded guilty yesterday and agreed to testify against the other four men.
Anthony Hayne (35) told US district judge David Dowd jnr in Akron, Ohio that he understood his plea meant he faces more than 15 years in prison and possible probation for life. No sentencing date was set.
Hayne, Brandon Baxter, Connor Stevens, Joshua Stafford and Douglas Wright are accused of conspiracy and attempting to use explosive materials.
The FBI said they tried to plant two tool boxes they believed contained plastic explosives and detonators at the base of a bridge 48km (30 miles) south of Cleveland.
An undercover FBI agent had sold the inoperable detonators and explosives to the men, and authorities swooped in to arrest them when they determined that they were planning to go ahead with the attack.
According to FBI testimony, Hayne, who has an extensive criminal history, acted as a lookout on April 30th, the night the five men are accused of planting the two inert detonators and explosives at the base of a bridge.
The other four have entered not-guilty pleas and, according to court testimony, plan to argue that they were entrapped by an FBI informant, who defence lawyers say coerced the men with money, alcohol and drugs.
The trial of the four is scheduled for September 17th. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 (€206,000) fine.
The defence lawyers yesterday requested that the court require the prosecution to give them immediate access to all internal FBI documents related to the handling of the criminal informant in the case in order to “attack his credibility”.
The judge ruled that the government had until two weeks before the trial starts to produce the documents.
More than a dozen supporters of the “Cleveland Five” gathered outside the courthouse before the hearing carrying signs calling for the arrest of the man they believe to be the criminal informant in the case. According to an FBI affidavit, the informant was paid more than $5,000 as part of an investigation that began last October, when he met the five suspects at an anti-Wall Street Occupy Cleveland rally. The FBI said the men had no ties to foreign militant organisations.
The Ohio FBI undercover operation was one of a number of stings by federal authorities in the past couple of years aimed at preventing attacks by foreign and domestic militants.
In June, a Moroccan man pleaded guilty to attempting a February suicide bombing of the US Capitol building in Washington. An undercover agent drove the man on the day of the planned attack.
At the Chicago Nato summit in May, undercover officers gathered evidence and arrested three men described as anarchists and accused of attempting to make Molotov cocktails.