A grand jury has returned an indictment charging a Virginia man accused of shooting a security guard inside the Washington, D.C., headquarters of a far-right Christian lobbying group with terrorism.
The AP reported that this is the first time in a decade that a person has been prosecuted under the statute.The new charge is for Floyd Lee Corkins II, who was arrested in August after allegedly opening fire inside the lobby of the Family Research Council building in downtown Washington.
Authorities said Corkins was carrying a backpack containing ammunition and Chick-fil-A sandwiches when he entered the group's headquarters, saying words to the effect of, "I don't like your politics," before shooting the guard, Leonardo Johnson, in the arm. Johnson took down the gunman, and no one else was injured. Chick-fil-A was making headlines at the time because of its president's stated opposition to gay marriage and boast about funding anti-gay organizations.
Corkins had been volunteering at an LGBT community center in the area and his parents told the authorities that he felt strongly about LGBT civil rights. His target was a group that staunchly opposes gay marriage and abortion rights but also spreads lies and disinformation about gays, earning it a "hate group" label from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The new charge, brought this week under a 2002 terrorism statute, indicates prosecutors plan to prove the shooting was ideologically motivated.
Corkins is the first person charged under the District of Columbia's Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington. The indictment accuses him of "acting with the intent to intimidate and coerce a significant portion of the civilian population of the District of Columbia and the United States."
The terrorism charge carries up to 30 years in prison. Other new charges in the updated indictment include attempted murder while armed, second-degree burglary and weapons offenses.
Corkins is due in federal court on Oct. 26. He had earlier pleaded not guilty to charges of carrying a firearm across state lines, assault with intent to kill while armed and possession of a firearm during a violent crime.
Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, declined to comment, as did Corkins' public defender, David Bos.
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said in an emailed statement late Oct. 25:
"The terrorism indictment announced today ... makes clear that acts of violence designed to intimidate and silence those who support natural marriage and traditional morality violate the law and undermine the security and stability of our form of government.
"We again call on organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center to stop its reckless practice of labeling organizations that oppose their promotion of homosexuality. The SPLC's 'hate' labeling of Christian organizations is fostering a dangerous and deadly environment of hostility and it needs to stop."
After the shooting, Andrea Lafferty, the president of another far-right group, the Traditional Values Coalition, said she was told by authorities that a note containing her group's contact information was found in Corkins' pocket. She said she was concerned her group had been targeted.