Zachary Adam Chesser, 21, of Fairfax County, Virginia, was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for communicating threats against the writers of the South Park television show, soliciting violent jihadists to desensitize law enforcement, and attempting to provide material support to Al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
“Zachary Chesser attempted to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and used the Internet to incite violence,” said Assistant Attorney General David Kris. “Today he is being held accountable for his actions. I applaud the many agents, prosecutors and analysts who worked tirelessly to bring this man to justice.”
“Zachary Chesser will spend 25 years in prison for advocating the murder of U.S. citizens for engaging in free speech about his religion,” said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride. “His actions caused people throughout the country to fear speaking out – even in jest – to avoid being labeled as enemies who deserved to be killed. The fact that a young man from Northern Virginia could support such violence and terror is a sobering reminder of the serious threat that homegrown jihadists pose to this country.”
According to court documents filed with his plea agreement on October 20, 2010, Chesser maintained several online profiles dedicated to extremist jihad propaganda. Chesser admitted to taking repeated steps in April 2010 to encourage violent jihadists to attack the writers of South Park for an episode that included Muhammad in a bear suit, including highlighting their residence and urging online readers to “pay them a visit.” Among the steps he took was posting on multiple occasions speeches by Anwar Al-Awlaki, which explained the Islamic justification for killing those who insult or defame Muhammad. Al-Awlaki was named a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” on July 12, 2010 by the United States government.
Chesser also admitted that in May 2010, he posted to a jihadist website the personal contact information of individuals who had joined the “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” group on Facebook, with the prompting that this is, “Just a place to start.”