CINCINNATI – A federal judge ordered Tuesday that an Ohio man charged with plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol undergo a mental evaluation to assess whether he is competent to stand trial.
U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith granted federal prosecutors’ request for an evaluation of 21-year-old Christopher Lee Cornell and ordered that he be moved to a federal medical center for up to 30 days. His attorneys earlier filed a court-sealed competency report, after stating last week there’s “reasonable cause” to question his competency.
Beckwith wrote that the court wants to know whether he is “suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense.”
The center will be determined by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Cornell has been held without bond in local county jails since his Jan. 14 arrest by the FBI on charges he planned to attack the Capitol with pipe bombs and guns. He has pleaded not guilty to four charges, including attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees.
Beckwith also set new evidence deadlines, with a status conference in the case scheduled for April 4. There’s no trial date set.
Cornell attorneys Martin Pinales and Candace Crouse also represent a Cincinnati-area man, Michael Hoyt, who was accused this year of threatening to kill then-House Speaker John Boehner. He was ruled not guilty by reason of insanity.
The FBI has said Cornell, of suburban Green Township just west of Cincinnati, 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 later told WXIX-TV of Cincinnati that he wanted to shoot President Barack Obama in the head.
FBI Director James Comey said last month in a Cincinnati visit that Islamic State group efforts to recruit homegrown terrorists go on “24 hours a day” across the United States.
Cornell uses the Muslim name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah. His father has said he was misled and coerced by “a snitch.”