CINCINNATI (AP) — A 21-year-old man accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol in support of Islamic State extremists pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the latest federal charge against him.
An indictment last week added a fourth count against Christopher Lee Cornell. The charge of material support to a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization carries a potential sentence of up to 15 years in prison with conviction.
Federal authorities said Cornell offered support and resources, including himself, to extremists with the Islamic State group.
Karen Savir, an assistant federal public defender representing Cornell, told a magistrate during a brief hearing that her client was pleading not guilty. The shackled prisoner, standing next to her, had replied with a soft “yeah” to U.S. Magistrate Stephanie Bowman’s questions about understanding his rights.
Cornell’s parents called out, “Love you, Chris!” as he was escorted by federal marshals down the courthouse hallway into the courtroom. Inside, he turned and watched them take their seats.
Cornell, who lived with his parents in Green Township west of Cincinnati, has been held without bond since his Jan. 14 arrest. His father has said Cornell was coerced by “a snitch.”
He earlier pleaded not guilty to the other counts. The charges of attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees and of solicitation to commit a crime of violence carry potential 20-year prison sentences. Cornell also faces a firearms-related charge carrying a mandatory minimum of five years, with a maximum of life in prison.
U.S. authorities are on alert for “lone wolf” terrorist plots inspired by the Islamic State extremist group. Concerns have heightened after two gunmen were shot dead recently while trying to attack an event in Garland, Texas, that featured cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammad.
The FBI has said Cornell, who uses the Muslim name of Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, wanted to “wage jihad” by attacking the Capitol with pipe bombs and shooting government officials and employees.
Before his arrest, Cornell sent messages on social media and posted video in support of Islamic State militants and violent attacks by others, the FBI said. Cornell told a Cincinnati television station in March that he had wanted to go to Washington and shoot President Barack Obama.
He was arrested outside a suburban gun shop after he bought two M-15 assault weapons and 600 rounds of ammunition, the FBI said.
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