Capitol plot suspect Cornell appears competent; Nov. 1 trial set
CINCINNATI — A suburban Cincinnati man, the beard and long hair he had when arrested gone, has been calling himself again by his birth name and appears competent to stand trial on charges that he plotted to attack the U.S. Capitol in support of the Islamic State, according to testimony Monday.
U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith scheduled trial for Nov. 1 after a hearing on Christopher Lee Cornell’s ability to participate in his defense. Defense psychologist Scot Bresler, of the University of Cincinnati, strongly advised that Cornell, 22, be re-evaluated because his competency is “marginal” and could change before trial.
Cornell had used the name Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah and followed some Islamic religious practices while, the FBI said, expressing support for violent jihadists. Bresler said he thought Cornell “self-radicalized” and adopted the identity to make him “feel he was somebody.”
Cornell has been held without bail since his January 2015 arrest near Cincinnati by the FBI. He has pleaded not guilty to four charges, including attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees. His father has said he was misled and coerced by “a snitch.”
Bresler, who has repeatedly examined Cornell since his arrest, said Sunday was the first time he asked him to call him “Chris,” instead of “Raheel” when he met with him at Boone County Jail in northern Kentucky where he was brought recently from a federal facility.
Cornell, sitting at the defense table in jail clothes with wrists and ankles shackled, appeared less gaunt than in earlier appearances and nodded and smiled at times, such as when he spotted his family.
His attorneys could still pursue a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity, although Bresler said Cornell has said he would oppose that defense. Bresler said Cornell suffers from schizotypal disorder, which can cause marked social anxiety and odd thinking, and he has long had problems with depression.