A federal judge has postponed the trial of a man accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol, with months of evidence-gathering expected in a case involving classified information.
U.S. District Judge Sandra Beckwith met Tuesday with attorneys in a pretrial conference requested by prosecutors about handling classified information in the case against 20-year-old Christopher Lee Cornell. They cited a federal law that sets out steps to balance a suspect’s right to obtain evidence for his defense with restrictions on disclosure of material linked to national security interests.
Cornell, of suburban Cincinnati, has pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees and two other counts.
Following an in-chambers conference, Beckwith appointed a security specialist with the U.S. Department of Justice as a court security officer for the case, according to court documents.
The federal judge also spelled out procedures for non-classified evidence as well as classified evidence that will be considered on a confidential basis between the court and the prosecution and defense, according to court documents.
The judge scheduled a telephone status conference for April 27 and scrubbed a March 2 trial date for Cornell. A court entry indicated about four months were set aside for gathering pretrial evidence.
Officials had been tracking Cornell since last summer when he voiced his opinion about violent jihad on Twitter and other social media platforms, according to court documents.
Court documents state Cornell sent a Tweet to an FBI source that read, “I believe we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks and everything.”
His father has said Cornell was coerced by a “snitch” trying to improve his own legal situation.
Cornell met with the FBI confidential source Oct. 17 and 18 in Cincinnati to discuss the attack, and told the informant he needed weapons and had wanted to “move” in December, according to court documents.
Charges of attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees and solicitation to commit a crime of violence carry potential 20-year prison sentences with convictions. Cornell also faces a firearms-related charge that carries a mandatory minimum of five years to a maximum of life in prison.
Cornell, who uses the Muslim name of Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, has been held without bond since his Jan. 14 arrest outside a Colerain Twp. gun shop. He was arrested by the FBI’s Cincinnati-Dayton Joint Terrorism Task Force moments after buying two semi-automatic rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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