Floyd Corkins pleads guilty to Family Research Council shooting
(AP/ABC7) - A man accused of shooting a security guard inside the downtown Washington headquarters of a conservative Christian lobbying group pleaded guilty Wednesday in connection with the shooting.
Floyd Corkins pleaded guilty to one federal count of crossing state lines with guns and ammunition. He also pleaded guilty to one count of intent to kill while armed and one count of committing an act of terrorism with the intent to kill.
Those last two counts are District charges.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 29.
Corkins was charged in August with opening fire inside the lobby of the Family Research Council building. A security guard was wounded but managed to wrestle away the gun. No one else was hurt.
Prosecutors say Corkins, who had been volunteering at a center for gay, lesbian and transgender people, was carrying ammunition and Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his bag. Chick-fil-A was making headlines at the time because of its president's stated opposition to gay marriage.
Corkins intended to smear the sandwiches in the faces of his victims to make a statement about gay rights opponents, he acknowledged during a hearing Wednesday.
According to the plea agreement, he told FBI agents who interviewed him after the shooting that he wanted to use the sandwiches to "make a statement against the people who work in that building ... and with their stance against gay rights and Chick-fil-A."
He was tackled during the shooting by an FRC employee, Leo Johnson, who was shout in the arm during the incident.
“Were it not for the heroic guard who tackled Floyd Corkins, he could have succeeded in perpetrating a mass killing spree in the nation’s capital,” said U.S. Attorney Ron Machen. “This case highlights the dangers of access to high-capacity magazines that allow killers to inflict carnage on a mass scale in the blink of an eye. Today’s guilty plea makes clear that using violence to terrorize political opponents will not be tolerated.”
Corkins acknowledged as part of his plea agreement that he had taken a number of steps to plan the shooting. He bought the pistol the week before and practiced firing it.
He also visited the headquarters of the Family Research Council, and he purchased the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches the day before the shooting. The plea agreement said Corkins was filmed picking out the gun by a French television crew doing a piece on the ease with which firearms can be purchased in the United States.
Corkins also acknowledged that he considered making a bomb but didn't have the patience to do it. In his pants pocket, police found a handwritten list of groups that also oppose gay marriage. Lawyers did not include the list of organizations in the plea agreement.
Corkins pleaded guilty to three charges: interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition, assault with intent to kill while armed and act of terrorism while armed, a charge based on the shooting being intended to intimidate anyone who is associated with or supports the Family Research Council and other organizations that oppose gay marriage.
Sentencing guidelines recommend a maximum of ten years on the first count and up to 15 years on the two other counts. The judge in the case, Richard W. Roberts, set sentencing for April 29.
In a statement released after Corkins' plea, the head of the Family Research Council blamed the shooting in part on the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled his organization a hate group.
In his plea agreement, Corkins acknowledged he identified the Council as "an anti-gay organization" by visiting Southern Poverty's website. The head of the Council, Tony Perkins, called on the group to stop labeling his organization and others hate groups because of their stance on gay issues. A spokeswoman for the Alabama-based Law Center did not immediately return a telephone message.
It came out in court Wednesday that last August France 2, the French television channel, videotaped Corkins at the Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly buying the gun he used six days later to try to shoot his way into the Family Research Council building.
"This is what I got.” Corkins tells the television crew. “I guess it's a basic gun for starting out and what not …. 229 and I have the 9 mm extension on it, so …. I don't know too much about it, but yeah.”
At the Family Research Council Wednesday, staff were praising Johnson, who is back at work and denouncing a liberal group that labeled them antigay.
“He targeted us because we had been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which we think is very reckless,” he says.