CLEVELAND—Five people were arrested and accused of conspiring to use explosives to destroy a bridge near Cleveland, Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Cleveland Division of the FBI, announced today.
Douglas L. Wright, 26; Brandon L. Baxter, 20; and Anthony Hayne, 35, were arrested by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force on the evening of April 30, 2012, on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce. Also arrested were Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, and charges are pending against them.
The public was never in danger from the explosive devices, which were controlled by an undercover FBI employee. The defendants were closely monitored by law enforcement. The explosives that the defendants allegedly purchased and attempted to use were inoperable and posed no threat to the public.
A criminal complaint was filed this morning in U.S. District Court in Cleveland.
According to that complaint, Wright, Baxter, and Hayne are self-proclaimed anarchists who formed into a small group and considered a series of evolving plots over several months.
The initial plot involved the use of smoke grenades to distract law enforcement in order for the co-conspirators to topple financial institution signs atop high rise buildings in downtown Cleveland, according to the complaint.
The plot later developed to the utilization of explosive materials. The defendants conspired to obtain C-4 explosives contained in two improvised explosive devices to be placed and remotely detonated, according to the complaint.
The defendants discussed various bridges and physical targets in and around the Cleveland metropolitan area over the course of several months. The final plan resulted in the Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge being the designated target. This bridge crosses from Brecksville, Ohio to Sagamore Hills, Ohio over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, according to the complaint.
“The complaint in this case alleges that the defendants took specific and defined actions to further a terrorist plot,” said U.S. Attorney Dettelbach. “The defendants stand charged based not upon any words or beliefs they might espouse, but based upon their own plans and actions.”
“The safety of the citizens of the Northern District of Ohio is and continues to be our primary focus. The individuals charged in this plot were intent on using violence to express their ideological views,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Anthony. “The Joint Terrorism Task Force will continue to be vigilant in its efforts to detect and disrupt any terrorism threat, domestic or international.”
Wright, Baxter, Hayne, Stevens, and Stafford will appear before a federal magistrate in U.S. District court today, May 1, 2012, in Cleveland.
Agencies represented on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force include: Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Sheriff’s Office; Federal Air Marshals Service; Cleveland Police Department; Cleveland Heights (Ohio) Police Department; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Intelligence; Westlake (Ohio) Police Department; U.S. Diplomatic Security Service; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Customs and Border Protection; RTA Police; Ohio State Highway Patrol; Transportation Security Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Shaker Heights (Ohio) Police Department; North Olmstead (Ohio) Police Department; U.S. Postal Inspectors; and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service. Assistance was also provided by the U.S. National Park Service Park Rangers, Sagamore Hills Police Department, Brecksville Police Department, and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
A criminal complaint is merely an accusation. All defendants are presumed innocent of the charges until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.