Would-Be Ohio Jihadi Pleads Guilty to Planning U.S. Capitol Attack

Butler County Jail/Handout via Reuters
Butler County Jail/Handout via Reuters

Christopher Cornell, a 22-year-old would-be jihadi killer for the Islamic State (ISIS), entered a guilty plea Monday to charges that he planned to attack the U.S. Capitol during President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address.

Charges against Cornell included “attempted murder of government officials, possession of a firearm to commit a crime and attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization,” according to Reuters. He faces up to 30 years in prison and a lifetime of supervision.

Cornell, a resident of the Cincinnati, Ohio, area “researched the construction of pipe bombs, purchased two semi-automatic rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition, and made plans to travel to Washington to carry out the plot,” according to the indictment against him.

After he was arrested, prosecutors said he posted statements encouraging others to join him in jihad against the United States in the name of ISIS.

A 2015 USA Today profile said Cornell prefers to be called by his Muslim name, Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, and used that name when he established his pro-terrorism social media accounts.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Cornell cut his long hair and beard, dropped his Muslim name, and began referring to himself as “Chris” again, shortly before a hearing in April.

USA Today said Cornell began his journey to radicalism as a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, pinging police radar by turning up at a 2013 memorial service for victims of the 2001 terrorist attack with a sign that said, “9/11 was an inside job.” He later took to describing himself as an “anarchist.”

Cornell’s father, John, was almost thrown out of court for telling his son, “Don’t trust anyone,” and according to Reuters, he has told local media that he believes the FBI set up his son.

The Enquirer reports that defense attorneys plan to criticize “the government’s conduct” during the sentencing hearing, evidently with an eye toward discrediting the confidential informant who testified against Cornell. Back when Cornell was calling himself Ubaydah and writing jihad messages on social media, he posted the name, address, and physical description of the person he thought was the FBI’s informant, along with information about that person’s family members.

Cornell’s lawyers explored the possibility of an insanity defense, but the Enquirer states that at the April hearing for which he shaved his hair and beard, a psychologist ruled out schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder and ruled him competent to stand trial.