Green Twp. man accused of planning an attack on U.S. Capitol competent to stand trial

Christopher Cornell accused in terror plot. (Photo/provided)
Christopher Cornell accused in terror plot. (Photo/provided)

CINCINNATI (AP and WLWT) -A federal judge has found a Green Township man charged with plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol in support of the Islamic State group competent to stand trial.

U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith earlier ordered a mental evaluation of 22-year-old Christopher Lee Cornell after his attorneys raised questions about his mental state. Evaluation reports for both sides have been filed under seal.

Beckwith heard arguments and testimony Monday morning before ruling Cornell was competent to stand trial.

A psychologist who met with Cornell testified that he was able to understand proceedings and assist in his defense.

The psychologist also said he has begun referring to himself again by his birth name and appears competent to stand trial.

The testimony by the defense witness Monday came during a competency hearing for Cornell, whose attorneys had raised questions about his mental state.

“It’s fragile because it could change at any time and it has to be looked at at the moment,” defense attorney Martin Pinales said.

U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith says she will review testimony and evaluation reports, but is moving ahead and has set a Nov 1. trial date.

Cornell has been held without bond since his January 2015 arrest near Cincinnati. He has pleaded not guilty to four charges, including attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees. His father has said he was misled and coerced by “a snitch.”

The judge last year appointed Pinales and Candace Crouse to represent Cornell after a federal public defender asked to withdraw from the case.

The same lawyers represented Michael Hoyt, a former Cincinnati area country club bartender who was ruled not guilty by reason of insanity on a charge he threatened to kill then-Speaker of the House John Boehner.

They subsequently filed a motion last November saying there was “reasonable cause to believe that Mr. Cornell may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent.”

Court records show Cornell was taken to a federal facility in Chicago in late November to be evaluated. He has been held recently in the Boone County jail.

A jail mugshot shows Cornell no longer sports the considerable beard he had upon his arrest. It also shows that his head is clean shaven.

The FBI said agents arrested Cornell in a gun shop parking lot near his home. They said he had just bought two M-15 assault weapons and ammunition and planned to attack the Capitol with pipe bombs and guns.

Cornell’s arrest came amid increased concern over Islamic State militant efforts to recruit homegrown “lone wolf” terrorists. The FBI has said Cornell wanted to “wage jihad” and sent messages on social media and posted video in support of Islamic State militants and violent attacks by others.

Cornell, who was going by the name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, said after his arrest that he wanted to shoot President Barack Obama in the head.

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