Ohio bridge bomb plot suspect wants separate trial

CLEVELAND Tue Jun 19, 2012 4:34pm EDT

The Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge is seen near Brecksville, Ohio, May 1, 2012. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

The Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge is seen near Brecksville, Ohio, May 1, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Aaron Josefczyk

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CLEVELAND (Reuters) - One of the five suspects accused of trying to blow up a highway bridge in Ohio has requested a separate trial, saying he wants to challenge his co-defendants' assertion that he was the instigator of the plot.

The defense motion filed on Monday said Douglas Wright's co-defendants told authorities after their arrest that Wright recruited them to participate in the plot, and he needs a separate trial to properly cross-examine them.

Wright and his co-defendants, Brandon Baxter, Anthony Hayne, Connor Stevens and Joshua Stafford, have all pleaded not guilty to three charges, including the use of weapons of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The men, who federal officials have said had no ties to foreign militant groups, were accused of paying an undercover FBI agent $900 for what they thought were explosives.

The five self-described anarchists drove to the base of a highway bridge where they planted two tool boxes they believed contained C-4 plastic explosives and detonators, according to court documents. The men then attempted to detonate the bombs remotely with cell phones, but the bombs were inactive.

Wright's attorney, Anthony Vegh, also requested that the trial scheduled to begin September 17 in U.S. District Court in Akron be moved to federal court in Toledo, Ohio.

The change of venue to western Ohio was needed, Vegh argued, because jurors were likely to hear evidence about other bombing plots that could have potentially harmed them or their loved ones.

Prosecutors have tapes of Wright discussing other possible bombing targets around Cleveland, which creates "a direct or indirect connection" to potential jurors in northeast Ohio.

All of the men have been denied bail and remain in jail.

(Editing by Andrew Stern; editing by Todd Eastham)

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