Attempted Ohio train derailments part of alleged terrorist plot: court docs

Joseph Findley, 43, allegedly tried to derail trains in Ohio and is facing a federal terrorism case. (FBI/Court documents)

CSX train employees found metal materials jammed into the tracks and rail switches of an Ohio train line for months after a near-catastrophic derailment in August, according to court documents.

During a test run for a CSX employee appreciation day, a train hit an obstruction on the track and temporarily derailed before the wheels dropped back into place.

The seemingly mysterious accident quickly became a concerning issue when employees continued to find more "purposefully placed" materials along the tracks, which matched methods taught by international terrorist groups to make homemade derail devices, court documents say. 

The investigation led to Cleveland man Joseph Findley, 43, who was arrested and charged with terrorist attacks against railroad carriers. 

Findley lives with his parents, who could not be reached by Fox News Digital. His mother told Fox 8, though, that her son is not a terrorist. 

"He's never been a bad kid, never, he was always good. He’s no terrorist, somebody’s making that up," his mom told the local news outlet, which asked what would explain his alleged actions.

"Being depressed, because he lost his job, he lost his girlfriend, but he never did anything like that," she said. "They’re nuts, he’s not a terrorist. I think they all exaggerated it because he never did anything bad."

The Amtrak train along that line typically carries between 180 and 200 passengers twice per day, according to court documents.

Evidence laid out by the FBI and federal prosecutors in court papers reviewed by Fox News Digital tell a different story. 

After the derailment on August 12, CSX employees found obstructions, including tie plates, spikes and other pieces of metal, wedged between the guardrail and the rail, according to the criminal complaint. 

Findley allegedly jammed these metal objects in the line five times from August to October. 

"The objects and their specific placement indicate knowledge of how the tracks and the switch operate, as well as how to disrupt these normal operations," the criminal complaint says. 


The man that the FBI identified as Joseph Findley is seen allegedly holding a railroad spike in the red circle and the switch in the yellow circle, which was clear of obstruction on Oct. 1, according to court documents. (FBI/Court documents)

A local business near the tracks caught a glimpse of a man in the area of the obstruction that caused the August 12 derailment and repositioned its cameras to get a clearer view of the tracks, court documents say.

"Over the next few days, CSX work crews reported several pieces of debris were placed on the tracks further east of the switch," the criminal complaint says. 

"This debris consisted of two fiberglass panels and various pieces of track material, including tie plates and spikes."

The spikes are sharp and pointed upwards "to cause harm to someone walking around the railroad tracks," the complaint says. 

Cameras caught the first glimpse of the suspect – a man wearing a black shirt, jean shorts and carrying an aluminum beverage can – on August 18, but investigators could not make out the man's face.

There was a lull in activity near the tracks until September 18, when crew members found material between the guardrail and the rail for the mainline. 

"Based on the condition of the material, it appeared to have been struck by at least one train," according to the criminal complaint, but luckily there were no derailments. 

How investigators found Findley

A day earlier – September 17 – trail cameras caught the same man from August 18 in the same clothing, but this time his face was clearer. 

Investigators followed his movements, and saw him check the switches where the obstructions were, according to court documents.

The same man was spotted in the same spot on September 30 and October 1, when he was "seen taking several pieces of track material and placing them on other parts of the rail."


Track material found on the track on September 30 after the man identified as Joseph Findley left the area, according to court documents. (FBI/Court documents)

Investigators showed the images from the secret trail cam to a number of nearby store employees, and one of them identified Findley. 

The clerk told investigators Findley grew up in the neighborhood, lives with his parents on a dead-end rotary and "is known to drink heavily," court documents say.

The FBI executed a search warrant on Findley's home, found the clothes seen in the surveillance videos and arrested him.

What Findley allegedly told investigators

Findley allegedly admitted to being the man in the surveillance videos and placing railroad spikes on the tracks, the criminal complaint says.  

However, he denied jamming the other objects in the tracks and said he did not intend to derail a train. 

He was represented by assistant public defender Ashlynn Mejia, who did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment.