CINCINNATI – A year after FBI agents moved in to arrest a young suburban Cincinnati man they said had just bought weapons for an attack on the U.S. Capitol, there's no trial scheduled and it's not certain there will even be one.
The federal judge and attorneys in the case are awaiting the results of a mental evaluation of Christopher Lee Cornell, 21, at a federal center in Chicago. Authorities have told the judge she'll have the report by Jan. 28.
U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith ordered the evaluation in November after Cornell's attorneys filed a court-sealed report after stating that there was "reasonable cause" to believe Cornell suffers from a mental disease or defect. Beckwith wants to know whether Cornell is competent to stand trial on charges from an alleged plot to attack the Capitol with pipe bombs and guns in support of the Islamic State group.
"We're waiting for the report on what the government says is his mental state," attorney Martin Pinales said this week.
Cornell has been held without bond since his Jan. 14 arrest by the FBI in a gun shop parking lot just west of Cincinnati. Asked how Cornell has been doing behind bars, Pinales replied: "At times good, at times not good; like any other person would be."
Cornell has pleaded not guilty to four charges, including attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees. The case has been subject to federal procedures meant to balance a suspect's right to obtain evidence for his defense with restricting disclosure of material linked to national security interests.
Cornell's arrest came amid increased concern over Islamic State militant efforts to recruit homegrown "lone wolf" terrorists. FBI Director James Comey said while visiting the Cincinnati field office in October that such recruiting goes on "24 hours a day" across the United States.
The FBI has said Cornell, of Green Township, wanted to "wage jihad" and sent messages on social media and posted video in support of Islamic State group militants and violent attacks by others. The FBI said he had just bought two M-15 assault weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition when arrested.
Cornell, who uses the Muslim name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, later told WXIX-TV of Cincinnati that he wanted to shoot President Barack Obama in the head.
Cornell's father has said he was misled and coerced by "a snitch" seeking to improve his own legal situation.
Beckwith has scheduled an April 4 status conference in the case.
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