Zachary Adam Chesser, linked to 'South Park' threats, pleads guilty

Zachary Adam Chesser pleaded guilty to threatening the creators of 'South Park' for lampooning the Prophet Mohammed. He also admitted to attempting to support Somali terrorists.

SITE Institute/AFP/Newscom
This undated file picture released by the SITE Institute on July 21 shows Zachary Adam Chesser standing in front of the White House. Chesser pleaded guilty Wednesday to providing material support to a US-designated terrorist group and making threats against the writers of the popular 'South Park' television show.

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 hearing in federal court in Alexandria, Mr. Chesser also pleaded guilty to suggesting that militant Muslims begin placing suspicious-looking but innocent packages in public places in the US.

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 admitted that he posted speeches by Anwar Al-Awlaki, the US citizen currently hiding in Yemen who has been identified by the US government as a specially designated global terrorist.

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.”

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of 5 free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.