During a September 5 hearing, three Occupy Cleveland members pleaded guilty to charges stemming from an April 31 bomb plot foiled by the FBI, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. Their changed pleas come over a month after Anthony Hayne submitted a “guilty” plea and agreed to testify against his fellow defendants, all charged with conspiracy to possess weapons of mass destruction, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, and malicious use of an explosive device to destroy property used in interstate commerce.
An FBI affidavit alleges that Hayne, Brandon Baxter, Connor Stevens, Douglas Wright, and Joshua Stafford obtained what they thought to be C4 and attempted to blow up a Cleveland-area bridge. Hayne, Baxter, Stevens, and Wright have now all pleaded guilty, while Stafford undergoes psychiatric evaluation.
Judge David Dowd has scheduled sentencing hearings for November 5-6.
Defense attorneys have argued the would-be bombers were entrapped by the FBI’s informant, whose identity was leaked a day after news broke of the arrests. In a post titled, “Unmasked: Meet The FBI’s Bridge Bomb Plot Snitch,” The Smoking Gun claimed to have found the informant’s identity by cross-referencing criminal records with the FBI affidavit.
John Pyle, the public defender assigned to Baxter, confirmed the identity of confidential informant Shaquille Azir to local reporters the following day. Before long, Azir was put into witness protection after receiving death threats.
In an August 2012 Media Trackers interview, Pyle refused to discuss a May 3 WEWS ABC 5 report that he had confirmed Azir’s identity. Pyle said he “had decided not to talk to others” about his role in the leak that put the FBI informant’s life in jeopardy.
When questioned further, Pyle replied that he was “not going to go there.”
In a September 6 interview with Media Trackers, WEWS ABC 5 reporter Mike Waterhouse verified that Pyle volunteered FBI informant Shaquille Azir’s home address, court records, and other personal details to reporters in response to a routine request for comment on the case.
Gail Stevens, the mother of now-admitted terrorist Connor Stevens, publicly called for Azir’s murder at a rally outside a July hearing. Stevens has since continued her anti-government protests, telling reporters from WKYC NBC 3 that the FBI is “freaking evil” and lamenting that “people don’t understand that.”
Stevens’s brother, Colin, called the trial of the five thwarted domestic terrorists “a complex and deeply disturbing picture of political oppression by the state.” The Plain Dealer reported that sympathizers outside the hearing wore shirts reading “Expose Entrapment.”
Media Trackers has cataloged evidence of the would-be bombers’ involvement with Occupy Cleveland, and has reported on warning signs of violent extremism within Occupy Cleveland that existed prior to the FBI bust.