A Virginia man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges that he issued threats and solicited violent retribution against the writers of the South Park television show for an episode that lampooned the Prophet Mohammed.
Zachary Adam Chesser of Bristow, Va., also admitted that he posted on a jihadist website personal contact information of individuals who had joined a Facebook page promoting “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”
Federal officials said he posted the information to provide targets for radical Muslims bent on revenge for perceived slights against Islam and Mohammed. The creator of the Facebook page has since changed her name and gone into hiding.
In a website posting, he reportedly explained that the strategy was to make it more difficult for law enforcement officials to recognize real explosive packages left in public places.
Chesser also admitted to attempting to provide material support to the militant Somali group, Al-Shabaab. Officials say Chesser twice tried to travel from the US to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab as a foreign fighter.
His first trip was postponed, officials say, because his wife could not obtain a passport. The second trip was attempted on July 10 when he tried to board a flight from New York to Uganda while carrying his infant son.
After he was stopped, Chesser told authorities he had brought his son with him as “cover” to help avoid suspicion about his travels overseas.
Chesser faces up to 30 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced by US District Judge Liam O’Grady on Feb. 25.
“Zachary Chesser seriously endangered the lives of innocent people who will remain at risk for many years to come,” US Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement. “His solicitation of extremists to murder US citizens also caused people throughout the country to fear speaking out – even in jest – lest they also be labeled as enemies [of Islam] who deserved to be killed.”