Five Ohio men accused of plotting to blow up a Cleveland-area bridge pleaded not guilty before a federal magistrate judge.
The men were arrested last week in a U.S. government sting operation on charges they’d planned to destroy a bridge linking Brecksville and Sagamore Hills, Ohio. They were indicted by a federal grand jury on May 3.
“Each defendant entered a plea of not guilty to the indictment,” before U.S. Magistrate Judge Greg White today in Cleveland, according to a corresponding electronic docket entry.
They were each charged with conspiracy, attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction to destroy property used in interstate commerce and attempting to use an explosive device to damage or destroy real property, and face possible life sentences if convicted.
Accused are Douglas L. Wright, 26, of Indianapolis; Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of Lakewood, Ohio; Anthony Hayne, 35, of Cleveland; Connor C. Stevens, 20, of Berea, Ohio; and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, of Cleveland.
A detention hearing scheduled for today was postponed indefinitely their request, according to the court’s docket. “All defendants agreed to being held in custody until further order,” it said.
The defendants came to the attention of U.S. authorities after a Federal Bureau of Investigation informant met Wright at an October protest, according to an affidavit supporting the initial federal criminal complaint filed against Wright, Baxter and Hayne on April 30.
The men allegedly considered using smoke grenades in a plot to topple signs of financial institutions atop high-rise buildings in downtown Cleveland, prosecutors said in the complaint unsealed that day.
The plan evolved into a plot to use C-4 plastic explosives to destroy the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge that carries vehicular traffic along Ohio’s State Route 82 through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, according to the charging documents.
The explosives, which were to be remotely detonated, were controlled by an undercover FBI agent and the public was never in danger, prosecutors have said.
The case is U.S. v Wright, 12-cr-00238, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Cleveland).