Prosecutors: Capitol attack plotter kept trying to incite
CINCINNATI — An Ohio man who plotted to attack the U.S. Capitol during President Obama's 2015 State of the Union address kept trying from behind bars to urge others to violence in support of the Islamic State group, federal authorities say.
Prosecutors described 22-year-old Christopher Lee Cornell's jail activities in a sentencing memorandum filed this week ahead of a Dec. 5 sentencing hearing. They want a judge to sentence him to 30 years in prison after he pleaded guilty earlier this year to three charges.
“This case is unusual in the amount of post-arrest conduct and misconduct by the defendant ... his persistence in trying to incite violence and his efforts to obstruct justice through witness intimidation,” the filing by U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman's office stated. “These events reflect a profound lack of remorse, or at least, a very lengthy delay in the appearance of remorse by Cornell.”
Cornell's attorneys plan to state their recommendations on sentencing next week to U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith.
The defense Wednesday filed a mental health report for Cornell under seal, and stated they plan to have psychologist Scott Bresler, who has met repeatedly with Cornell, testify at the sentencing hearing.
The FBI arrested Cornell on Jan. 14, 2015, in a gun shop parking lot in suburban Cincinnati, saying he had just bought two M-15 semi-automatic rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition. He was arrested less than a week before Obama's scheduled address in Washington; federal authorities say Cornell wanted to shoot the president, members of Congress and others at the speech.
Prosecutors said Cornell continued while in jail to promote violence, trying to circulate his “Message to America” call for others to “fight against the disbelieving people of America.” He told WXIX-TV in an interview that he wanted to shoot Obama in the head, and U.S. 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 and call for others to wage “violent jihad.”
They said he also was “fixated” on learning the true identity of a confidential informant and had numerous discussions with his father about him. Cornell's attorneys have said they will highlight the role of a government confidential informant at the sentencing hearing.
Federal investigators said Cornell made an internet post after his arrest in which he identified the man he believed he was the informant and gave personal details about him.