CINCINNATI - A 20-year-old Ohio man arrested in an FBI sting and charged with plotting to set off bombs at the U.S. Capitol and shoot government officials is scheduled to make his first appearance in court.
Christopher Lee Cornell, described by his father as "a mommy's boy" who lived with his parents in suburban Cincinnati and previously showed little direction, is scheduled to appear in federal court on Friday afternoon.
Cornell was arrested Wednesday and charged with plotting to attack the Capitol with pipe bombs and guns. The arrest came after he posted on Twitter his support for Muslim terrorists and then showed his plans to an FBI informant who contacted him via the social-media platform, according to court documents.
Cornell's father, John Cornell, said his son was taken in by a "snitch" who was trying to help himself.
"I'm going to fight this," John Cornell said. "But I'm afraid they're going to throw the book at him."
Similar cases in recent years have led to accusations of entrapment. But the FBI has argued such stings are vital for averting deadly terror attacks, and juries have returned tough sentences.
The arrest came with U.S. counterterrorism authorities on high alert against homegrown extremists and "lone wolves" - disaffected or disturbed individuals who hold radical beliefs but have no direct connection to a terrorist organization.
The bearded, long-haired Cornell was taken into custody outside a gun range and store west of Cincinnati after, the FBI said, he bought two M-15 semi-automatic rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition as part of a plan to go to Washington.
The FBI said he had for months sent social media messages and posted video espousing support for Islamic State militants and for violent attacks by others.
Cornell, using the online name of Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, told the informant they should "wage jihad," authorities said in court papers. He allegedly wrote in an instant message that "we should meet up and make our own group in alliance with the Islamic State here and plan operations ourselves."
It was unclear from court papers if he had made contact with any terrorist groups.
John Cornell said Thursday his son usually spent hours playing video games in his bedroom in his parents' apartment, rarely going out or working, and voicing distrust of the government and the media.
But in recent weeks, his parents noticed a change in him. They thought it was a change for the better: He was helping his mother around the house, cooking meals, sitting with his parents to watch movies, and talking about having become a Muslim.
His parents said they believed he was saving to buy a car.
"I'm in shock," his father said. His mother, Angel Carmen, added tearfully: "I feel like my heart has been ripped out."