American jihadi gets 25 years for 'South Park' and Facebook death threats
Zachary Chesser of Virginia, who converted to a militant form of Islam, had pleaded guilty to three charges, including threatening the lives of 'South Park' writers and participants in 'Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.'
A Muslim convert and college dropout was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to attempting to provide material support to a Somali-based terrorist group and threatening the lives of the writers of the "South Park" satiric television show for portraying the prophet Muhammad in a bear suit.Skip to next paragraph
Zachary Adam Chesser, 21, of Fairfax, Va., had also posted on a militant Islamic website the names and addresses of participants in another satiric effort, an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” sponsored by a group of artists on Facebook. He advised the militant Muslim followers of the website: “Just a place to start.”
Lawyers for Mr. Chesser portray him as a confused, immature person who tended to dive wholeheartedly into new experiences. In an 18-month period in 2009 and 2010, he went from being a student at George Mason University to converting to Islam and becoming a close follower of radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. In the process he came to embrace the most violent form of Islam advocated by Al Qaeda and other Muslim terror groups.
Since his arrest last year, Chesser has repudiated violence and says he feels remorse for his earlier conduct. His lawyers had urged that he receive a 20-year sentence.
Federal prosecutors asked the judge to send Chesser to prison for 30 years.
In court filings, prosecutors argued that the injury Chesser caused to the nation is ongoing and open-ended. “There is nothing that Chesser can ever do or say that will remedy the tremendous harm he has already caused to our society as a whole,” Assistant US Attorney Gordon Kromberg wrote in a brief.
He said Internet-based threats Chesser placed on militant websites made “people shrink back from expressing their opinions – or even telling a joke – lest they be accused of being an enemy of Islam for whom beheading is the only appropriate punishment.”
The prosecutor added that Chesser’s victims “will continue to be at risk of kidnapping and beheading for years (if not the rest of their lives) because of his actions.”