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Cleveland bridge plot: Anarchists angry with corporate America

The Cleveland bridge plot offers a window on the FBI strategy of using sting operations to catch terrorists. Lawyers cry entrapment. FBI says it's stopping terrorists.

By Kantele Franko and Thomas J. SheeranAssociated Press / May 2, 2012

A man walks along a path approaching the Station Rd. Bridge at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Brecksville, Ohio. Five men have been arrested for conspiring to blow up the high level bridge.

(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

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Cleveland

Five men charged with plotting to bomb a bridge linking two wealthy Cleveland suburbs placed what they thought were real explosives at the site and repeatedly tried to detonate them using text messages from cellphones, according to an FBI affidavit filed in court.

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Federal authorities on Tuesday described the men as anarchists who are angry with corporate America and the government and unknowingly worked with an FBI informant for months as they crafted and carried out their plan.

The FBI said suspects bought fake explosives from an undercover employee and put them at the base of a highway bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, about 15 miles south of downtown Cleveland, on Monday. After leaving the park, they tried to initiate the explosives using a text-message detonation code, and they called the person who provided the bombs to check the code when it failed, according to the FBI affidavit.

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Their arrests that night marked the latest case in which FBI agents planned fake terrorism plots alongside targeted suspects, an indication it continues to be a top strategy for the government in preventing terrorism.

"They talked about making a statement against corporate America and the government as some of the motivations for their actions," U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said Tuesday.

Court documents detail conversations the FBI secretly recorded in which its informant discussed bomb plans with some of the suspects. In one, Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of Lakewood, allegedly said, "Taking out a bridge in the business district would cost the ... corporate big wigs a lot of money" because it would cause structural damage and prevent people from going to work.

The alleged conversations depict Douglas L. Wright, 26, of Indianapolis, as a sort of group leader who recruited others, scouted out the bridge site and participated in buying the fake explosives.

The other suspects were identified as Joshua S. Stafford, 23, and Anthony Hayne, 35, both of Cleveland, and Connor Stevens, 20, of suburban Berea.

All five are charged with conspiracy and trying to bomb property used in interstate commerce. They appeared Tuesday in U.S. District Court and were ordered jailed without bond pending a hearing Monday.

The charges carry possible penalties of more than 20 years in prison.

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