A Virginia man pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to several charges related to the shooting at the conservative Family Research Council (FRC) building in Washington, D.C., last year.
The man, Floyd Lee Corkins II, now faces up to 70 years in prison as conservative groups point a finger at the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of "anti-gay" organizations, saying that the SPLC is responsible for fueling Corkins' hateful attack.
Corkins told FBI agents after the attack, according to court documents, that he wanted to "make a statement against people who work in that building (FRC)…" He also bought Chick-fil-A sandwiches and had planned to smear it on the faces of FRC staffers he killed, Corkins said. The shooting occurred during intense media scrutiny of Chick-fil-A after its president, Dan Cathy, a conservative evangelical Christian, voiced his support for traditional marriage.
In court Wednesday, Corkins pleaded guilty to transporting a gun across state lines from Virginia to Washington D.C., for which he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years; assault with intent to kill, which has a maximum sentence of 30 years; and act of terrorism while armed against civilians of Washington D.C., which has a maximum sentence of 30 years. Corkins was the first person charged under the District of Columbia's Anti-Terrorism Act of 2002. His sentencing hearing is set for April 29.
The 28-year-old Virginia man was arrested last August after he opened fire inside the FRC's headquarters. At the time, according to his parents, Corkins was volunteering at a community center for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. The FRC was targeted for its strong opposition to gay marriage, which landed it on SPLC's "Active Anti-Gay Groups" list. Corkins reportedly had a bag packed with Chick-fil-A sandwiches and a box of ammunition when he said, "I don't like your politics," and shot a security guard in the FRC's lobby.
A FRC statement on Wednesday noted that Corkins told the FBI in an interview right after the shooting that he was guilty and intended to "kill as many as possible and smear the Chick-Fil-A sandwiches in victims' faces, and kill the guard." The statement further noted that the prosecutor said he reviewed the family computer and found that Corkins had identified his targets using the Southern Poverty Law Center's web site.
"The day after Floyd Corkins came into the FRC headquarter and opened fire wounding one of our team members, I stated that while Corkins was responsible for the shooting, he had been given a license to perpetrate this act of violence by groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center which has systematically and recklessly labeled every organization with which they disagree as a 'hate group'," said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins after the hearing.
"Only by ending its hate labeling practices will the SPLC send a message that it no longer wishes to be a source for those who would commit acts of violence that are only designed to intimidate and silence Christians and others who support natural marriage and traditional morality," he added.
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Dr. Paul Cameron, chairman of the Family Research Institute in Colorado Springs, Colo., whose organization is also listed as an active anti-gay group by the SPLC, said he was very concerned about the list and had already taken steps to safeguard his organization. "We are concerned and we have installed guns on the property," he told The Christian Post on Wednesday. "Obviously whatever sentence he (Corkins) gets he will probably be out all too soon," he said.
"One would hope that they (SPLC) would at least be accurate in the 'hate group' labeling," Cameron said. "Most Christian groups wish them well and usually disagree with them point by point in a very civil way," he added.
Traditional Values Coalition in Washington D.C. President Andrea Rafferty told CP on Wednesday that if Corkins hadn't been stopped at the FRC last August, her organization would probably have been next on his list.
"Traditional Values Coalition has probably been on the SPLC's list longer than any other group and I do hold them responsible for a lot of the hate and inciting of these individuals," she said. She explained that when Congress was debating the hate crime legislation, it was noted that if a pastor incited hate through his sermon then that pastor should also be held accountable. "In that sense, SPLC should also be considered an accomplice in the shooting," she said.
When contacted by CP on Wednesday for comment on its active anti-gay group list posted under "Intelligence Files," SPLC official Rebecca Sturtevant pointed to a 2012 statement it gave on the FRC attack and said the group had "no further comment."
"Perkins and his allies, seeing an opportunity to score points, are using the attack on their offices to pose a false equivalency between the SPLC's criticisms of the FRC and the FRC's criticisms of LGBT people. The FRC routinely pushes out demonizing claims that gay people are child molesters and worse claims that are provably false. It should stop the demonization and affirm the dignity of all people," the SPLC's statement read in part.
Meanwhile, wnd.com also reported on Wednesday that a federal judge has ordered the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to conceal the home address of Public Advocate of the United States president Eugene Delgaudio, which had been included in case filings after it was revealed that Corkins had been to his office as well. According to the report, the judge felt that publicizing Delgaudio's home address could subject him to "politically motivated harassment or even violence."
The Falls Church, Virginia-based Public advocate was sued in Colorado by SPLC attorneys on behalf of two homosexuals over Public Advocate's mailings opposing state lawmakers who support gay marriage in Colorado. Delgaudio did not respond to a CP request for comment on Wednesday.