A judge ready to sentence a fourth man in a failed plot to bomb a highway bridge asked him on Thursday if he should step aside from the bench because of bias.

U.S. District Court Judge David Dowd asked the attorney for defendant Anthony Hayne to discuss the issue with Hayne before today’s sentencing in Akron.

The issue involves comments the judge made to the Plain Dealer that were favorable to three co-defendants sentenced last week. The judge said if Hayne, who’s from Cleveland, concludes the comments showed bias, he would remove himself from the case.

Hayne, 35, hopes his plea deal gives him half of the eight- to 11-year sentences his co-defendants got, not half the longer terms sought by the government. The judge called the longer recommendations grotesque.

On Thursday, Connor Stevens, of Berea, became the last of the other three men to appeal his sentence as too harsh. Stevens, 21, was sentenced to eight years and one month as the least involved, but the government asked for 19 years.

The judge had praised Stevens’ comments in court before his sentencing and predicted all three would emerge from prison as better people.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach said there would be no comment on the judge’s bias query to Hayne. Hayne’s attorney, Michael O’Shea, declined to comment.

The men targeted a bridge over Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Cleveland and Akron.