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Zachary Adam Chesser of N.Va. pleads guilty to supporting Somali terrorists

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 6:35 PM

A Northern Virginia man who threatened violence to the creators of the "South Park" animated TV show over their depiction of Muhammad, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Alexandria federal court to charges of supporting Somali terrorists.

Zachary Adam Chesser, 20, of Bristow pleaded guilty to charges of providing material support to terrorists, communicating threats and soliciting crimes of violence.

U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady scheduled a sentencing hearing for Feb. 25. The three charges, if sentenced consecutively, carry a combined term of up to 30 years in prison.

Under terms of the plea, Chesser would get no less than 20 years in prison. That agreement, however, does not bind the government in terms of what it would seek or what would be imposed.

Prosecutors agreed not to seek Chesser's incarceration in a so-called Supermax facility, such as the Colorado prison where terrorist defendants are housed in isolation for as many as 23 hours a day. That decision will ultimately belong to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

A George Mason University dropout who became an Internet propagandist for al-Qaeda under the name Abu Talhah al-Amrikee, Chesser was arrested July 21 after being placed on the no-fly list and stopped from traveling with his infant son from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Uganda, en route to Somalia. In April, he had threatened the creators of "South Park" online for making an episode with an irreverent depiction of the prophet Mohammad.

He allegedly told FBI agents that he planned to join the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab, a al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organization that has committed numerous bombings and attacks in seeking to overthrow the weak, U.N.-supported Somali government.

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