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`South Park' Cartoon Threats Result in Terror Guilty Plea for Virginia Man

A Virginia man pleaded guilty to communicating threats against the writers of the “South Park” after they depicted Muhammad, the Islamic prophet, in their animated cartoon.

Zachary Adam Chesser, 20, of Fairfax County could face as long as 30 years in prison after admitting today to three criminal charges including providing material support to Al- Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization, prosecutors said.

Chesser, who maintained several online profiles dedicated to extremist Islamic propaganda, encouraged violent jihadists in April to attack the TV writers, posting their addresses and urging readers to “pay them a visit,” prosecutors said.

“Zachary Chesser seriously endangered the lives of innocent people who will remain at risk for many years to come,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement. “His solicitation of extremists to murder U.S. citizens also caused people throughout the country to fear speaking out -- even in jest -- lest they also be labeled as enemies who deserved to be killed.”

Prosecutors also said Chesser posted speeches by Anwar Al- Awlaki, a Yemeni lecturer whom the U.S. government has designated a terrorist, justifying the killing of those who insult or defame Muhammad. Depictions of Muhammad are considered blasphemous by many Muslims.

According to court records, Chesser said that he twice tried, unsuccessfully, to leave the U.S. and travel to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab. The first time his wife was unable to obtain a passport, while the second time he wasn’t permitted to board the flight.

To contact the reporter on this story: William McQuillen in Annapolis at bmcquillen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net

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