AKRON, Ohio — The first defendant to plead guilty in the unsuccessful plot to blow up the state Route 82 bridge was sentenced Friday in federal court to six years in prison.
Anthony Michael Hayne, 36, took full responsibility for his role in the plot, speaking briefly and clearly with no prepared remarks, as he stood in shackles before U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr. during his sentencing hearing at the federal courthouse in downtown Akron.
“What I did was wrong, and not wrong because I got caught,” Hayne said, adding that he was not blaming the effects of alcohol or drugs.
“I blame it on myself,” he said.
Hayne then apologized to the court and to the community, saying he knew he had engaged in dangerous conduct.
The attempted bombing involved what turned out to be fake, military-grade plastic explosives paid for and provided by an FBI undercover informant.
No one was hurt, and the five young conspirators were arrested and quickly taken into custody on the night of April 30 as they were attempting to detonate the dud explosives with cellphone codes.
The bridge is a sprawling interstate highway structure, more than 1,100 feet long, standing on national park grounds between Summit and Cuyahoga counties.
Dowd said he watched FBI surveillance videos of the young men actually putting the fake bombs in place, saying “They were not in any way going to bring down that bridge.”
“They could have just about put a firecracker there with the same effect,” Dowd said.
Nevertheless, Dowd stressed that attempting to use the fake bombs did not lessen the intent of the young men to commit a terrorist-like act.
After Friday’s hearing adjourned, defense attorney Michael O’Shea said Hayne was satisfied with his six-year-sentence “under the totality of the circumstances.”
His sentence is retroactive to the day of his April 30 arrest, meaning he will get seven months credit for time served.
It was Hayne, according to earlier court proceedings, who was the first to cooperate with the government investigation and to testify about the inner workings of the plot.
O’Shea, in fact, told Dowd that Hayne’s testimony “torpedoed” the entrapment defense that the other defendants had attempted to raise earlier.
Hayne’s testimony confirmed that his co-conspirators were thinking about and planning other dangerous acts before the FBI undercover informant entered the picture, O’Shea said.
That fact, he argued, led directly to the guilty pleas of the other conspirators, thus saving the court months of trial time.
“This man was a substantial reason why we are not trying this case, your honor, and I think we all know that,” O’Shea told the court.
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Hayne’s mother was present for the sentencing. When it was over, she paused briefly and told reporters she would not take any questions, but did have one statement to make.
“Tony’s family loves him very much,” she said. She declined to give her name.
It was revealed during the hearing that Hayne has a 16-year-old daughter, and that Hayne learned only within the past few days that he has a newborn child.
Dowd previously sentenced three co-defendants in the case.
He gave Douglas L. Wright, 27, of Indianapolis, 11 1/2 years in federal prison. Brandon L. Baxter, 21, of Lakewood, got nine years, nine months. Connor C. Stevens, 20, of Berea, got eight years.
The final defendant, Dowd said, is undergoing a psychological competency evaluation.
Dowd’s offer earlier this week, in which he said he would be willing to recuse himself if Hayne felt there was an appearance of bias — based on favorable comments the judge had made about Wright, Baxter and Stevens — never came to pass.
O’Shea stressed that both he and Hayne were ready to “defer to the wisdom of the court.”