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Ohio man accused in Capitol terror plot held without bond

Last modified: 1/17/2015 12:33:03 AM
A 20-year-old Ohio man charged with plotting an attack at the U.S. Capitol was ordered held without bond yesterday after a federal magistrate concluded he was a danger to the community.

Christopher Lee Cornell appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie Bowman in a brief detention hearing yesterday afternoon. He was brought to the federal courthouse in downtown Cincinnati under tight security from the jail some 30 miles away where he’s been held since after his arrest Wednesday outside a gun shop.

Cornell planned to “wage jihad” by attacking the Capitol with pipe bombs and shooting government officials and employees, the FBI said in court documents.

“I feel that the danger to the community is such that I cannot order bond today,” Bowman said, noting that messages attributed by federal authorities to Cornell had him discussing extreme violence.

She agreed with the recommendation by Tim Mangan, an assistant U.S. attorney, who called Cornell a flight risk and a danger to the community for allegedly creating the kind of terrorist plot that “is the most pressing threat to our public safety.”

An assistant federal public defender, Karen Savir, had asked that Cornell be released with electronic monitoring to his parents’ apartment in suburban Cincinnati. She said he had no history of serious trouble and didn’t even have a passport.

She added that he was “eager to appear in court” to defend against the allegations.

She also told Bowman that Cornell wants to be addressed by his Muslim name, Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, and have access to a prayer mat and a clock so that he can continue his religious practices in the Butler County Jail. He also wants to be taken off suicide watch, she said.

Wearing county jail clothing with orange-and-white stripes and in ankle shackles, Cornell spoke quietly at the defense table with Savir. His parents and other family members were in the front row and were warned to be quiet after shouts including “Love you, Chris!”

Cornell’s father, John Cornell, has said his son was set up by a “snitch” who was trying to help himself. He described his son as a “mommy’s boy” who spent hours playing video games in his bedroom. He also said his son was “at peace” after becoming a practicing Muslim.

“He was dragged into this,” Cornell said before the hearing. “He was coerced.”

His son had long expressed distrust of government and the news media, and the local police said he disrupted a 9/11 memorial ceremony in 2013.

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.

Similar stings in recent years have led to accusations of entrapment. But the FBI has argued such stings are vital for averting deadly terror attacks, and juries have returned tough sentences.

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


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