Slamming the growing use of the FBI tactic of using undercover agents to frame American and foreign-born youth in terrorist plots, Andy Baxter, father of Brandon Baxter, told the court his son was manipulated by an FBI informant.
"Why don't they send someone in these groups to calm them down rather than instigate?" Baxter asked.
Moreover, James Stevens, father of Connor Stevens, told US Attorney Duncan Brown he knew his son was guilty but added, "So are you."
Although government prosecutors had sought much harsher prison terms for the trio, US District Judge David D. Dowd gave Wright 11.5 years, Baxter just under 10 years and Stevens 8 years in prison. After serving their sentence, they will be on probation for life, under which they will have to report regularly with assigned law enforcement officers.
The sentences constitute "a big rejection of the government's position," said Stevens' defense attorney Terry Gilbert, as quoted in the report.
The men were three of five accused of plotting in April to blow up a bridge 30 miles south of Cleveland that runs through Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
The men were arrested back in April after allegedly leaving two toolboxes at the base of the bridge that contained inert C-4 explosives purchased from an undercover FBI agent.
They then drove to a nearby restaurant and used a mobile phone in an attempt to set off what they believed to be a bomb.
According to the report, the FBI investigation into the group began in October 2011 when the agency’s informant met the five men at an anti-Wall Street Occupy Cleveland rally. American authorities paid the informant more than $5,000 as part of the investigation, according to an FBI affidavit.
US Attorney Steven Dettelbach claimed after a September hearing that his office was not spying on protest groups such as Occupy and did not entrap the five men.
Three American youth have been sentenced to prison for an alleged plot to blow up a highway bridge in Cleveland, Ohio, in yet another case of FBI agents deliberately inciting troubled youth to commit terror actions.
In an apparent forced plea bargain, in which government prosecutors intimidated suspects to plead guilty to avoid a harsher sentence, the three Americans were sentenced to prison on Tuesday by a federal judge.
Brandon Baxter, 20, Connor Stevens, 20, and Douglas Wright, 27, all pleaded guilty on September 5 to “conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction,” along with other related charges, Reuters reported.
A fourth suspect, Anthony Hayne, 35, pleaded guilty in July and agreed to testify against the others in a deal with US prosecutors to receive a lighter sentence. Hayne, according to the report, is expected to get a 15-year jail term when he is sentenced on Wednesday.
The fifth suspect, Joshua Stafford, has been undergoing competency testing.