FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 5, 2012
Joshua Ehrlich - 216-308-1612 (cell)
Jamie Carter - 216-912-8070 (home)
Cleveland 4 Support Committee
Cleveland 4 Continue Fight for Justice in Entrapment Case After Guilty Pleas
This Wednesday, three of the four young men known as the "Cleveland 4," Brandon Baxter, Doug Wright and Connor Stevens, entered into a non-cooperating plea agreement for all counts of the charges brought against them, but not to the government’s terrorism enhancement. The Cleveland 4 Support Committee continues to support Brandon, Doug, Connor and Josh during this time.
The sentencing for these three will not occur until after a hearing scheduled for November 5th and 6th. at which point Brandon, Doug and Connor will still have the opportunity to present evidence in court regarding unlawful entrapment actions by the FBI. Their sentence could range from five years to three lifetimes, with the defense and prosecution differing over the how federal sentencing guidelines would apply.
“We are distraught to see them plead guilty to these charges,” said Joshua Ehrlich of the Cleveland 4 Support Committee. “It is disturbing to see this situation unfold knowing that the FBI manufactured and carried out this so-called plot by means of coercion and manipulation.” The FBI has a long history of using counterintelligence tactics like infiltration, disruption and entrapment to undermine movements for social change. The government is also known for using such tactics to prey on those who are young, vulnerable and economically marginalized in order to carry out their political agenda.
Although claims of terrorism have been made against the defendants, the Cleveland 4 Support Committee believes that the actual terrorism has been perpetuated by the U.S. government against the public and those working for social change through movements like Occupy Wall Street. "This is not a case about homegrown terrorism, like the government would have us believe," said Julia Boyd of the Cleveland 4 Support Committee. "This is a case that was manufactured and carried out by the FBI in order to undermine political resistance in the United States and to satisfy a quota in its so-called war on terror."
“These boys, who gave their lives to preserving affordable housing and fighting the epidemic of foreclosures, are facing the possibility of three life sentences, which is a terrifying prospect,” said Ehrlich. “The sentences they are threatened with are dramatically inflated due to post-9/11 sentencing guidelines designed to criminalize political dissent.”
According to the Cleveland 4 Support Committee, the defendants are facing a criminal justice system that penalizes people for going to trial and rewards them for pleading guilty, even when those defendants know they are innocent. As a result, more than 90 percent of federal cases never go to trial. “These boys are facing charges which, due to the sensational nature of the alleged crimes, are almost impossible to beat, regardless of whether government misconduct created this situation,” continued Ehrlich.
The defense has consistently argued that Brandon Baxter, Connor Stevens, Douglas L. Wright, and Joshua Stafford were entrapped by Shaquille Azir, 39, a paid FBI informant with a long criminal history. In addition to employing some of the defendants to do manual labor work for months in advance of the arrests, Azir is also being accused of supplying them with alcohol and illicit pharmaceutical drugs. Azir is even accused of threatening one of the defendants for wanting to pull out shortly before the arrests.
Notably, in almost all contemporary terrorism-related cases, law enforcement itself has supplied the materials to make the fake or real incendiary devices defendants are accused of conspiring to use. The Cleveland case is no exception. Azir and the FBI supplied the fake C-4 and other materials to help advance the law enforcement-initiated plan. However, these details are sidestepped by sensationalized prosecutions intent on discrediting political dissidents by associating so-called "terrorism" crimes with "anarchism" and the Occupy movement.
Joshua Stafford, a fourth defendant in the case, is undergoing a mental health evaluation. His trial has been indefinitely postponed. Anthony Hayne, the fifth of the accused, pled guilty to all charges in July in a cooperating plea agreement.
The Cleveland 4 Support Group is a group of friends, family, and community members of the defendants facing federal terrorism charges for allegedly trying to destroy a bridge with explosives on April 31st, 2012. While this case has been portrayed as story of "home grown terrorists," the truth is that this is an FBI-manufactured plot, continuing their long history of deliberate attacks on social justice movements. More information is available at http://cleveland4solidarity.org/
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