AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Three more men charged with plotting to bomb a highway bridge in Ohio admitted their roles in the scheme Wednesday in a move meant to avoid life prison sentences.
The device was a dud provided by an FBI informant and no one was hurt.
The FBI has said the public was never in danger even though they say the target was a highway bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Cleveland and Akron.
Two 20-year-old suburban Cleveland men, Connor Stevens of Berea and Brandon Baxter of Lakewood, and Douglas Wright, 26, of Indianapolis, pleaded guilty to three-count indictments in back-to-back appearances in U.S. District Court.
A fourth man pleaded guilty earlier, and the fifth defendant faces trial after a defense-requested psychiatric exam.
Prosecutors said they calculated the trio could face 30 years to life in prison, based on the seriousness of the crimes. There was no plea deal, and U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said a sentence recommendation would be made later.
Defense attorneys proposed what Judge David Dowd repeatedly described as a "vastly different" calculation of possible prison time under federal guidelines: in the range of five years for each man.
The defense claims the men never meant to hurt anyone and were goaded into the plot by an ex-convict who was working as an FBI informant.
The judge expects to sentence the men in early November.
Dettelbach, who watched the pleas, sought outside court to deflect the defense argument that the defendants had been entrapped by the informant.
"Make no mistake about it — it was their plot," Dettelbach said. "It was the defendants who selected the target they wished to destroy."
Terry Gilbert, Stevens' attorney, said the informant had provided the men with money for alcohol and marijuana and had "nurtured" the plot.
John Pyle, Baxter's attorney, said he would press the informant issue in appealing to the judge for leniency. "We intend to through all the provoking that went on," he said outside court.