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Grand jury indicts US man held in Capitol terror plot

January 21, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) — A grand jury Wednesday indicted the 20-year-old man accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol on charges that include attempting to kill federal officials and employees.

The indictment charges Christopher Lee Cornell with two counts that carry possible sentences upon conviction of up to 20 years each: attempted murder of government employees and officials and solicitation to commit a crime of violence. Cornell, who’s 20 years old, also faces a firearms-related charge.

The indictment alleges that Cornell was attempting to “kill officers and employees of the United States while (they) were engaged in and on account of the performance of their official duties; specifically, by attempting to attack the United States Capitol Building.”

Cornell was arrested outside a gun shop near his Ohio home Jan. 14 after the FBI said he bought two M-15 assault weapons and 600 rounds of ammunition. The FBI said in court documents filed last week that Cornell planned to “wage jihad” by attacking the Capitol with pipe bombs and shooting government officials and employees.

He is scheduled for arraignment Thursday.

A message was left Wednesday for his attorney. Cornell’s father, John Cornell, has said his son was coerced and misled by “a snitch” trying to better his own legal situation.

A U.S. magistrate last Friday ordered the young man held without bond, saying he poses a danger to the community.

“The serious nature of the alleged offense and the defendant’s comfort with extreme violence weigh heavily against bond,” Magistrate Stephanie K. Bowman wrote in her order.

Cornell, in handcuffs and leg shackles, spoke softly during the detention hearing to an assistant federal public defender, Karen Savir. Savir told the magistrate Cornell wanted to be addressed by his Muslim name, Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, and to have access to a prayer mat and a clock in jail so he could continue his religious practices.

Savir said he had no history of serious trouble and didn’t have a passport. She added that he was “eager to appear in court” to defend against the allegations.

Cornell, who lived with his parents in their apartment had long expressed distrust of government and the news media. Police said he disrupted a 9/11 memorial ceremony in 2013 by holding up a sign saying the terrorist attacks were “an inside job.”

The FBI said he had for months sent social media messages and posted video espousing support for Islamic State militants and for violent attacks by others. Cornell told an informant they should “wage jihad,” authorities said in court papers.

It was unclear from court papers if Cornell had made contact with any terrorist groups.

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Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed in Washington.

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Contact Dan Sewell at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell