BURLINGTON, Ky -- Federal prosecutors Monday recommended a sentence of 30 years in prison for a Green Township man who pleaded guilty to planning an attack on the United States Capitol inspired by the Islamic State group.
"A sentence of 30 years of imprisonment for this plot reflects the seriousness of the offenses, promotes respect for the law, and provides just punishment,” the prosecutors wrote in 22-year-old Christopher Cornell’s sentencing memorandum. "The sentence would also serve as an appropriate deterrent to any others who would plan to attack the country in such a manner."
Cornell told an FBI informant in 2014 that “jihad is an obligation” and celebrated violence committed by the Islamic State online -- according to the sentencing memorandum, he carefully studied other domestic terror attacks, such as the Boston marathon bombing, in an effort to make his own more successful.
He ultimately decided that he and the informant would travel to Washington, D.C. and attack the U.S. Capitol during President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address for the sake of making a symbolic impact on the country.
“It doesn’t matter who we hit, you know,” Cornell told the informant. "'cause they are all enemies, you know. They’re all part of the government. They’re all there for a reason ... so it doesn’t matter who we hit."
Federal authorities arrested Cornell Jan. 14, 2015 -- six days before the president’s address -- when he purchased a pair of semi-automatic rifles that he intended to use in the attack.
After his arrest, Cornell continued to attempt communication with the Islamic State and even tried to identify the informant who helped authorities apprehend him. He posted repeatedly on pro-Islamic State message boards with what he believed was information about the informant’s real identity.
He was transferred to the Boone County Jail March 5 and placed in solitary confinement for his past actions.
Cornell will be sentenced Dec. 5 for attempted murder of government officials, possessing a firearm with plans to commit a violence crime and attempting to support a foreign terrorist organization.
Read the complete sentencing memorandum: