- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2012

FBI agents have arrested five people on suspicion of conspiring to blow up a bridge near Cleveland, three of whom were identified by federal authorities as self-proclaimed anarchists who formed a small group and considered a series of evolving plots over several months.

Douglas L. Wright, 26, Brandon L. Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 35, were arrested Monday night by members of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force 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.

The FBI said the five men planted what they thought were explosives underneath the bridge’s column and tried to set it off remotely. Instead, they were arrested by undercover agents who were monitoring the group by video.

“The complaint in this case alleges that the defendants took specific and defined actions to further a terrorist plot,” said U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach in Ohio. “The defendants stand charged based not upon any words or beliefs they might espouse, but based upon their own plans and actions.”

Five men have been arrested for conspiring to blow up this high-level bridge over the Cuyahoga River Valley near Cleveland. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
Five men have been arrested for conspiring to blow up this high-level ... more >

FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony, who heads the bureau’s Cleveland division, noted that the public was never in danger from the explosive devices, which were controlled by an undercover FBI employee. He said the five men were closely monitored by law enforcement personnel and the explosives they are accused of purchasing and attempting to use were inoperable and posed no threat to the public.

A criminal complaint in the case was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. At a hearing Tuesday, all five were ordered to be jailed without bond pending a hearing Monday.

An Occupy Cleveland spokesman, Jacob Wagner, told reporters that some of the men had attended the group’s events but were not affiliated with the Occupy group or acting on its behalf.

According to the complaint, Mr. Wright, Mr. Baxter and Mr. Hayne considered several plots, including the use of smoke grenades to distract law enforcement personnel to allow them to topple financial institution signs atop high-rise buildings in downtown Cleveland. The complaint said the plot later developed to the use of explosive materials.

The men, according to the complaint, conspired to obtain C-4 explosives contained in two improvised explosive devices to be placed and remotely detonated. It said they also 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 State Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge being the designated target. The bridge crosses from Brecksville to Sagamore Hills over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The bridge is used by nearly 14,000 motorists every day, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Mr. Anthony said the safety of the citizens of Ohio “is and continues to be our primary focus,” adding that those charged in the case “were intent on using violence to express their ideological views.

“The Joint Terrorism Task Force will continue to be vigilant in its efforts to detect and disrupt any terrorism threat, domestic or international,” he said.

According to the complaint, an FBI informant recorded numerous conversations with Mr. Wright in which he discussed the need to obtain explosive devices or make them using the book “The Anarchist Cookbook.” Mr. Baxter allegedly told the informant that destroying a bridge would cause great financial harm.

“Taking out a bridge in the business district would cost the corporate bigwigs a lot of money,” Mr. Baxter purportedly said.