AKRON, Ohio — The first man to plead guilty in a failed plot to bomb a highway bridge in Ohio was sentenced Friday to six years in prison, the lightest sentence of the four handed out so far.
Anthony Hayne, 36, of Cleveland, apologized before being sentenced in U.S. District Court. His guilty plea and offer to testify for prosecutors quickly led three of his co-defendants to plead guilty.
A fifth defendant is undergoing a psychiatric exam.
Hayne, who was at greater risk of a long sentence because of his criminal record for theft and breaking and entering, had pleaded guilty in a deal seeking to avoid a possible life sentence. He stuck with his guilty plea but backed out of the plea deal, hoping his sentence would still wind up less than his co-defendants.
"What I did was wrong," Hayne told the court. And, in an apparent reference to co-defendants who blamed their involvement on liquor or drugs, added, "I blame it on myself."
The men were arrested in an FBI sting operation targeting a highway bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Cleveland and Akron. The FBI has said the public was never in danger and the device was a dud provided by an informant.
Still, the fact that the device was a dud "is not a defense," Judge David Dowd said.
The suspects were described by the government as self-proclaimed anarchists who acted out of anger against corporate America and the government. The defense has called the investigation a case of entrapment, with the informant guiding the way.
Hayne disavowed any suggestion that the plot was a misguided prank by men upset with the government and corporations as the five became involved in the Occupy Cleveland movement.
"I know what I did was dangerous," said Hayne, tattoos showing from under a short-sleeve blue jail suit and his buzz cut a marked difference from the long hair in his arrest mug shot.
The three co-defendants who pleaded guilty did so without plea deals. They were sentenced previously to eight- to 11-year terms, shorter than the government had recommended.
The three have appealed their sentences as too harsh for a crime that didn't hurt anyone. Hayne's attorney, Michael O'Shea, said he doubted a sentence appeal would help Hayne much, since the crime carries a mandatory minimum of five years.
O'Shea said Hayne deserved less prison time than the others because his plea and offer to testify had led to others pleading guilty within six weeks. Hayne's testimony showed a plot was evolving even before the involvement of an FBI informant whose work led to defense entrapment claims, O'Shea said.
The judge acknowledged the key role Hayne's guilty played, saying it "did work for the great benefit of the government."
Hayne's mother watched the sentencing and later said only that his family loves him.