Terror convict: I was mentally incompetent, entrapped by FBI
CINCINNATI (AP) — An Ohio man serving 30 years in prison for plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol in support of the Islamic State group wants his plea and sentence thrown out, arguing that he was mentally incompetent and was entrapped by the FBI.
Christopher Lee Cornell, 23, of suburban Cincinnati, recently asked a court to overturn his sentence. He filed the request from a federal prison in Fairton, New Jersey.
FBI agents arrested him in January 2015 after he bought guns and ammunition, which investigators said were to be used to attack during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
Cornell claims in his request that he was lured into the plot and encouraged by an FBI informant. He says the FBI manufactured the case by taking advantage of his mental illness.
“This is one of the many cases where the FBI created and facilitated a phony terrorist plot to make it appear as though they are doing their job and winning the so-called ‘War on Terror,’” he says.
Cornell says his counsel should have pursued defenses of incompetency and entrapment. Martin Pinales, who was his lead attorney, said Tuesday he couldn’t comment because he hadn’t yet seen Cornell’s request.
An FBI spokesman, Todd Lindgren, declined to comment. U.S. Attorney’s office spokeswoman Jennifer Thornton said prosecutors will answer the motion if the court orders a response, but had no comment for now.
Cornell pleaded guilty in 2016 to three charges including attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees.
His attorneys had raised questions about his mental state, but a federal judge ruled him competent to stand trial after hearing expert testimony.
At sentencing, Pinales scoffed at Cornell’s plan to carry a semi-automatic weapon into the Capitol and open fire on the president, members of Congress and others as “a magical plan” that resulted from Cornell’s distorted thinking being influenced by the confidential informant.
Prosecutors played a video of Cornell talking excitedly about the Capitol attack and other potential targets and said “lone wolf” terrorist plots have been carried out repeatedly.
A federal appeals court earlier this year dismissed Cornell’s bid to appeal the judge’s sentence, saying there was no evidence that he misunderstood his rights when he pleaded guilty.
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