Bridge bomber found guilty on all counts

10:54 PM, Jun 13, 2013   |    comments
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AKRON -- Jury in the Joshua Stafford bridge bombing case has found him guilty on all three counts.

The prosecutor, in his closing, said defendant Douglas Wright was recorded describing Stafford as "...he's just a dude who likes to do crazy s*%t...."

Prosecutors say the original plan moved from "..blowing up bank signs in downtown blowing up the Brecksville Northfield bridge on Route 82..."

Prosecutors say that Stafford was with the four other men and an undercover agent throughout the evening and knew that they were not going to "tag" the bridge's pillars, as Stafford had testified earlier Thursday.

Why Applebee's? Prosecutors say that the Applebee's on nearby state Route 21 had video surveillance so they could establish their alibis when they texted the #2332 on the cell phone to detonate the bombs.

Stafford, 24, of Cleveland, has pleaded not guilty to the three charges against him: conspiracy with four others to procure weapons of mass destruction; knowingly using weapons of mass destruction, specifically IED's composed of C-4; and maliciously attempting to destroy the Brecksville Northfield high-level bridge.

The case is being heard by U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr. in Akron.

Stafford began his closing argument by saying "...the evidence shows I was not present when any of the items like gas masks and cell phones were purchased...I was not part of the planning..."

He said he didn't think it was something bad "...that would be done by a peaceful group...and I put myself into a joke or what I thought was a joke..."

Stafford's 40-minute closing argument took somewhat rambling and disjointed turns and several times Dowd had to redirect him to only talk about the evidence and not give additional testimony.

On April 30, 2012, five men were arrested in what the FBI says was a failed plot to bring down the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge on State Route 82 over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Brecksville and Sagamore Hills.

The five were Stafford; Anthony Hayne, 35, of Cleveland; Brandon L. Baxter, 20, of Lakewood; Connor Stevens, 20, of Berea; and Douglas L. Wright, 26; of Indianapolis. The FBI says the five are all self-proclaimed anarchists.

The five were under close police surveillance. The FBI says the group purchased two inoperable improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from an undercover agent. The FBI stressed the devices were inert.

To date, the other four defendants have landed prison terms of six to 11 years. All were charged with use of weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy.

Related article: Accused bomber case set to go to jury

Stafford chose to represent himself during the trial. Jury selection was held Monday and opening statements were delivered Tuesday morning. Prosecutors presented about a dozen witnesses and rested its case Wednesday afternoon.

Stafford took the stand Thursday morning and questioned himself for about an hour. He called no other witnesses.

When cross-examined by the prosecution, he said he had heard co-defendant Douglas Wright talk about explosives and using C-4, an explosive.

Stafford admitted to the prosecutor that he was carrying a toolbox-shaped box to the state Route 82 bridge but says he thought they were going to "tag" pillars. "Tagging" is spray-painting designs or names on surfaces.

He said he only agreed to carry the box and "tag" the pillar because he was promised food at Applebee's and a pack of cigarettes. Stafford said he thought Douglas Wright was "not serious" when Wright said he would be bringing C-4 explosives to blow up the state Route 82 bridge.

Stafford admitted under oath that he considers himself an anarchist if "an anarchist is someone who hates the government."

Stafford said the Occupy Movement is "to me, was really a peaceful way to help out the community.....often we fed the homeless, um, helped out with different garden projects...just normal things that a citizen would do."

The men had ties to the Occupy Movement but allegedly decided it wasn't proactive enough, so they secretly formed an anarchist group - calling itself the Revolutionary People's Party - and took steps to blow up the bridge after discussing bombing other targets, including a Ku Klux Klan gathering spot and a Federal Reserve Bank, court documents allege.

Earlier this year, Dowd held a competency hearing for Stafford. Dowd ruled Stafford mentally fit for trial after hearing from psychologists who said Stafford is suicidal, depressed and wary of a dangerous world.


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