CINCINNATI —A Hamilton County man accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol in support of the Islamic State group has pleaded guilty.
Christopher Lee Cornell, 22, had previously pleaded not guilty to four charges stemming from his January 2015 arrest.
On Monday, wearing shackles on his hands and feet, Cornell pleaded guilty to three of the four charges against him; attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees, offering material support to a terrorist organization and a firearms charge, with the fourth charge, solicitation to commit a crime of violence, dropped, WLWT News 5’s Todd Dykes said.
If Federal Judge Sandra Beckwith approves the plea deal, Cornell faces a prison sentence of 5 to 30 years.
The judge said that Cornell faced a recommended sentence of 30 years in prison.
Cornell’s troubles began when he started visiting websites and social media channels supportive of terror groups.
“In this case, we don’t have any evidence that was presented to us that he had any contact with anyone overseas,” Crouse said. “This is somebody who was young, impressionable, lonely, depressed, kind of living an online life at the time. And if the government finds this, and if they have a confidential informant that’s working with them they’re going to take this very seriously. And so what you say in your online life matters, especially in this climate.”
FBI agents arrested Cornell in the parking lot of a gun shop near Cincinnati last year, saying he’d just bought two assault weapons and ammunition.
Cornell’s father said his son was misled and coerced by “a snitch.” After court Monday, John Cornell said “We love Chris very much. He has a lot of friends and family that support him.”
Echoing that sentiment, Crouse said she believes Cornell can turn his life around.
“He doesn’t need to be locked away and the key thrown away,” Crouse said. “I think he can be saved, and I think that he can live a law-abiding productive life sometime in the future.”
“This is not something that’s limited to the southern district of Ohio,” Glassman said. “When you have the volatile events of the world and you have the internet where anyone can be radicalized at any time this could happen to any person at any time throughout the country.”
Federal authorities have expressed deep concern over Islamic State militant efforts to recruit homegrown “lone wolf” terrorists.
The FBI said the Green Township man wanted to “wage jihad” and sent messages on social media and posted video in support of Islamic State militants and violent attacks by others.
Some of those messages happened in January 2016 when Cornell gained access to a computer at a prison near Terre Haute, Ind. where he had been transferred.
In those messages, prosecutors said, Cornell called for jihad and listed names and addresses of people he believed were witnesses against him. It was not known how long the messages were online.
“There was an incident causing an issue which caused him a step backwards,” Pinales said. “Those have been addressed, and he is now a step forward.”
FBI agents arrested Cornell in the parking lot of a gun shop in suburban Cincinnati, saying he had just bought two M-15 semi-automatic rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition. They have said he planned to attack the Capitol with pipe bombs, then shoot people as they fled.
Defense attorney Martin Pinales called Cornell “very fragile.” Cornell has trimmed the long hair and beard he had when he was arrested and no longer insists on being called Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, which he had adopted as his name.
Meanwhile, if you are a Muslim who actually does take action and is caught throwing explosives at a Jewish temple while shouting ‘allah akbar’, why then you simply get probation.