The lawyer for Brandon Baxter, a Lakewood man who is charged with four others of plotting to blow up a Brecksville bridge, said Wednesday his client was coached into participating in the scheme by an FBI informant working the case.
Cleveland attorney John Pyle, who took on Baxter’s case this week, said his client would not have — and could not have — gone through with the plot if not for the FBI's involvement.
Pyle said his client will plead not guilty next week.
Baxter, 20, Douglas L. Wright, 26, Anthony Hayne, 35, Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, are each charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of attempted use of an explosive. They were arrested Monday night.
According to the FBI affidavit, the agency used a secret informant and an undercover agent to infiltrate the group of self-proclaimed anarchists.
“You can just see flatly between the lines in the government’s complaint about how much (the informant) was doing to encourage, facilitate and suggest,” Pyle said. “That’s the gist of it.”
The informant — who was convicted of cocaine possession in 1990 and robbery in 1991 — began working for the FBI in July 2011. The undercover FBI agent has worked for the agency for 15 years.
The informant met Wright at a Cleveland protest in October 2011, the affidavit said.
The investigation began after Wright told the informant that he and several other anarchists wanted to "send a message to corporations" by causing "violence and destruction to physical property in a variety of ways," the affidavit said. The informant eventually met the other four accused men.
Baxter, who’s been described as a fringe member of the Occupy Cleveland movement, had some issues with the government, Pyle conceded.
“There was some frustration on his part and other dimensions to his thinking, but he just didn’t have the capacity to do this,” he said. “He had no money. The government had to facilitate what they did. Otherwise they wouldn’t have done it.”
Christophe Kochheiser, who knows Baxter and the others from the Occupy Cleveland events, said he was shocked to hear about the charges.
“There’s nothing malicious about him at all,” Kochheiser said, adding he doesn't believe Baxter "is capable" of carrying out what he's charged with.
Represented by different attorneys, each of the men is scheduled to appear at 11 a.m. May 7 at the federal courthouse in Cleveland for a detention hearing and a preliminary hearing.
They will remain in custody until then.