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Self-described anarchist gets 10 years in Ohio bridge bombing plot

By Kim Palmer

AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - A self-described anarchist found guilty of conspiring to destroy a bridge that runs through a park 30 miles south of Cleveland was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Monday.

Joshua Stafford was the only one of five defendants in the bombing plot to take his case to trial. The 24-year-old acted as his own attorney, and called only himself as a witness, during the three-day federal trial in Akron in June.

The men were accused of plotting in April 2012 to blow up a bridge that runs through Cuyahoga Valley National Park. They were arrested after leaving two tool boxes at the base of the bridge that contained inert C-4 explosives purchased from an undercover FBI agent.

After placing what they thought to be active explosives, the five men drove to a restaurant and used a cellphone to try to set off the bomb. FBI agents have said the public was never in danger, and that the defendants were not tied to foreign militant groups.

Stafford was convicted on June 10 of three counts of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and other charges, and had faced a possible life sentence. His four co-defendants, Douglas Wright, Brandon Baxter, Connor Stevens and Anthony Hayne, pleaded guilty to the plot and received sentences ranging from six to more than 10 years.

Before sentencing him, U.S. District Judge David Dowd gave Stafford a chance to admit to his role in the plot. Stafford gave a rambling statement finishing with: "I don't think there is anything else to say."

Tim Ivey, Stafford's public defense attorney, asked the judge to consider Stafford's mental and physical health history before sentencing. Stafford suffers from, among other problems, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, and was first hospitalized for psychiatric issues when he was five years old, according to a psychiatrist who testified at his trial.

Prosecutor Duncan Brown said Stafford was part of a "violent, breakaway group of anarchists" who had grown frustrated with the peaceful protests espoused by the leaders of the "Occupy" movement in Cleveland.

The Occupy movement staged rallies and protests criticizing banks and the U.S. government for what they called economic exploitation and the widening gap between rich and poor in the United States.

Supporters of the five men involved in the Cleveland incident have accused FBI agents and prosecutors of trapping them.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski, Greg McCune and Andre Grenon)

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