CLEVELAND – Federal prosecutors are seeking up to life in prison for three men who pleaded guilty in a plot to bomb a highway bridge in Ohio, but the defense asked for leniency.
Both sides filed sentencing recommendations Thursday and Friday with U.S. District Court Judge David Dowd, who will sentence the three on Nov. 19 in Akron. He scheduled a hearing for Monday on the recommendations.
The device was a dud provided by an FBI informant and no one was hurt.
The government said the plot amounted to terrorism and that the fake bomb should be viewed as a weapon of mass destruction.
The act of detonating the improvised explosive devices at the base of the Route 82 bridge was meant to convey a message to the civilian population, the corporate world, the financial system, and all levels of government, prosecutors said.
The defense for Connor Stevens, 20, of Berea; Brandon Baxter, 20, of Lakewood; and Douglas Wright, 26, of Indianapolis, said a five-year term is appropriate and that the plot wasn’t an act of anti-government terrorism.
The resulting offense was more an act of vandalism with no defined goal than any allegedly vaguely discernible attempt to affect the conduct of government, the defense said.
Each man pleaded guilty to conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, knowingly attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to damage property with explosives. There was no plea deal.
Prosecutors said the three could face 30 years to life in prison, based on the seriousness of the crimes.
A fourth man, 35-year-old Anthony Hayne of Cleveland, pleaded guilty earlier and agreed to testify for the government. His plea agreement allows him the chance to avoid a life sentence. A fifth defendant is undergoing a psychiatric exam.