Judge: Cornell competent to stand trial on Capitol attack plot

FOX19 NOW's Tricia Macke speaks to terror plot suspect Christopher Cornell (VIDEO)
Christopher Cornell's April 2016 mugshot (Photo: Boone County Jail)
Christopher Cornell's April 2016 mugshot (Photo: Boone County Jail)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A Green Township man is competent to stand trial on charges he plotted to attack the U.S. Capitol in support of the Islamic State group, a federal judge ruled Monday.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Beckwith ordered a mental evaluation for Christopher Lee Cornell, 22, after his attorneys raised questions about his mental state.

Evaluation reports for both sides have been filed under seal.

A Nov. 1 trial date has been set for Cornell, who has been held without bond since his January 2015 arrest near Cincinnati.

The doctor who analyzed Cornell said Sunday was the first time Cornell referred to himself as "Chris" instead of "Raheel." He also said Monday that Cornell created the "Raheel" alter ego to feel important and feel like he was making a difference.

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."

Cornell, who goes by the name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, called into the FOX19 NOW newsroom after his arrest and, in an exclusive interview, detailed plans of his alleged plot, including that he wanted to shoot President Barack Obama in the head.

[Terror suspect Christopher Cornell: "I'm so dedicated that I risked my whole life"]

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, of suburban Green Township, wanted to "wage jihad" and sent messages on social media and posted video in support of Islamic State militants and violent attacks by others.

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 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.

FOX19 NOW will continue to update this story throughout the day.

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