Man who plotted attack on US Capitol sentenced
Christopher Lee Cornell called the court system “rigged” and was sentenced to 30 years in prison
By Dan Sewell
CINCINNATI — A 22-year-old man accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol in support of the Islamic State group shouted out his support of Allah and called the court system “rigged” on Monday after being sentenced to 30 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith, who voiced doubts about Christopher Lee Cornell’s claims of remorse and commitment against promoting “jihadist” violence, also sentenced the suburban Cincinnati man to lifetime probation after his sentence with monitoring and sharp restrictions on his computer use.
As he was led out of the courtroom in shackles, Cornell, who earlier offered apologies while asking the judge to give him “a second chance,” criticized the court system and shouted: “Allah is in control, not this judge!”
The FBI arrested Cornell in January 2015. In August, he pleaded guilty to three charges, including attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees. Court documents show Cornell said he wanted to attack during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
Cornell’s attorneys argued for a shorter sentence, saying he has rejected “radical Islamic propaganda” while embracing peaceful Islamic religious philosophy. They said he wants to be a productive citizen.
They described Cornell as a lonely, depressed youth who became self-radicalized, living “a fantasy life behind a computer screen.” They say he was steered by a paid FBI confidential informant.
The attorneys also said Cornell’s plot was infeasible and likely reflected a mental condition that distorted reality. They said Cornell told the informant he planned to wear a turban, black camouflage and sandals, enter the Capitol building through the front door and take aim at Obama while he spoke.
The FBI arrested him in a western Cincinnati suburban gun shop parking lot, saying he had just bought two M-15 semi-automatic rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition.
In their sentencing memo filed earlier, prosecutors said Cornell continued in jail to promote violence, trying to circulate his “Message to America” call for others to “fight against the disbelieving people of America.” Authorities said he was able to circumvent a security program on a jail computer terminal meant for legal research to make internet posts about his Capitol attack plan, to call for others to wage “violent jihad” and to seek retribution against the confidential informant.
A federal judge recently sentenced another suburban Cincinnati man, 22-year-old Munir Abdulkader, of West Chester Township, to 20 years in prison for a plot to behead a military veteran and then attack a police department in support of the Islamic State group.
In a separate case, authorities are still investigating what motivated an Ohio State University student to launch a car-and-knife attack last week but have said terrorism is a possibility. The student was killed by police.