CINCINNATI -- The Green Township man serving a 30-year prison sentence for plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol is seeking to have the case thrown out and alleging prosecutorial misconduct in new court filings.
Christopher Lee Cornell, 23, argued that FBI agents targeted him because of his religious beliefs and took advantage of his "mental illness" in documents filed with the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati Wednesday. He filed the request from a federal prison in New Jersey.
FBI agents arrested Cornell in the parking lot of the Point Blank Range and Gunshop in Colerain Township in 2015 after he bought guns and ammunition. Authorities said he planned to attack the U.S. Capitol building during the 2015 State of the Union address.
After a federal judge found Cornell competent to stand trial, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Cornell appealed the sentence, but a judge dismissed his effort.
In the documents filed this week, Cornell wrote that the FBI informant was another Muslim man who had been charged with an unrelated crime and wanted leniency. It was the informant who first reached out to him and "refused" to let him back out. And it was the FBI who provided the money for guns, ammunition and transportation, according to Cornell.
"Were it not for the FBI's involvement no offense would have been committed," Cornell's motion states. "Cornell did not have the capabilities to launch an attack on his own."
He also wrote that his plan "was not realistic" because of his unspecified mental illness, which he claimed to have been diagnosed with as a child.
For those reasons, the case should be thrown out, Cornell wrote.
Cornell also asked for the judge to release him, writing that he has no contacts overseas and not even the necessary travel documents. He also cited an FBI agent's comments, reported by some news outlets, that there had been no threat to the public.
Additionally, Cornell alleged prosecutorial misconduct. He "was targeted not due to any evidence of intent or capability to engage in terrorism, but for the 'radical' political views he expressed" and for his religious beliefs as a Muslim, he wrote.
"The Prosecution claims they are putting terrorism on trial, but ... they are in fact putting Islam on trial," the motion states.
Cornell has no history of politically-motivated violence and there's no evidence of him having contact with any terrorists, he wrote.