BC-US--Bridge Bomb Plot, 1st Ld-Writethru,335
Plea changes set for 3 in Ohio bridge bomb plot
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AKRON, Ohio — Three of the four remaining defendants charged with plotting to bomb a highway bridge in Ohio were expected to change their pleas Wednesday in a development that usually signals plans by a defendant to plead guilty.
Federal judge David Dowd scheduled hearings in Akron for the three defendants after meeting with attorneys Tuesday.
Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland, has confirmed the change-of-plea hearings for 20-year-old Brandon Baxter of Lakewood; 20-year-old Connor Stevens of Berea; and 26-year-old Douglas Wright of Indianapolis.
In July, another defendant, 35-year-old Anthony Hayne of Cleveland, pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the government.
Plea changes by the trio would leave only Joshua Stafford, currently undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, facing trial.
Federal authorities arrested the five in late April, accusing them of trying to detonate what was actually a fake explosive provided by a paid FBI informant.
The FBI has said the public was never in danger even though they say the target was a highway bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Cleveland and Akron.
The suspects are described by the government as self-proclaimed anarchists who acted out of anger against corporate America and the government. But one defense attorney has called the investigation a case of entrapment, with the FBI informant guiding the way.
All but Hayne were scheduled to go on trial in September and could have faced life in prison if convicted.
Under the terms of a plea deal, Hayne will have the chance to avoid a life prison term. With the plea and offer of testimony for the prosecution, he could face 15 years to nearly 20 years in prison.
FBI agent Brian Taylor testified in early August that one of the suspects told him the group targeted the bridge in the Cuyahoga Valley National to minimize the impact of the explosion and avoid casualties.
The five men had been active with the Occupy Cleveland group. Organizers of the movement have sought to distance the group from the defendants.