Jesse Morton made national headlines when he was accused in federal court of using his Revolution Muslim website to encourage attacks against the creators of “South Park” and others he said were enemies of Islam.
After he was convicted, the Virginia man became an FBI informant. Once released from prison, he joined a D.C.-area think tank focused on studying extremism, saying he hoped to “make amends” through his work.
But Morton, now 38, again faces legal troubles after being arrested and accused of bringing cocaine to meet a prostitute. He is due in court next week and could return to prison.
Morton is no longer working as a research fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, a spokesman confirmed.
Morton was once deemed by federal prosecutors as dangerous to “the very freedoms on which our society is based.” But even before leaving prison, he has said in an interview, he began working undercover on counterterrorism operations. He was released in 2015 after serving less than a third of his 11½ -year prison sentence and hired by GWU the following year.
According to court documents, Morton was arrested on Dec. 28 in a sting operation by Fairfax police. He answered an ad on Backpage.com for a prostitute, police said. When he showed up at the Governor House Inn & Suites in Falls Church, he was arrested. Police say they found cocaine and a glass pipe in his pack of Marlboro cigarettes. In his car, they said they found another device for smoking crack cocaine. He is charged with possession with manufacturing a controlled substance and residing in a bawdy place.
Morton could not be reached for comment, and his lawyer did not return a request for comment. He is scheduled to appear in federal court in Alexandria on Tuesday and in Fairfax County court on April 19.
Morton’s violent exhortations on the Revolution Muslim website were blamed for inspiring Colleen LaRose, who tried to kill a Swedish cartoonist, and Jose Pimentel, who plotted a New York City bombing, among others. Morton pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiring to solicit murder, making threatening communications and using the Internet to place others in fear.
In an interview last fall with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Morton said that after his plea and while in prison, he began doing work for federal agents. According to court documents and a defense attorney involved, after his release Morton was paid by the FBI to help build a case against a supporter of the Islamic State.
The FBI also relied on Morton to help demystify the radicalization process, and he took on a similar role at GWU.
In a 2016 interview with The Washington Post, Morton said he hoped that work would give him “a bit of an ability to make amends.”
He explained how what he described as a traumatic childhood and substance abuse issues left him alienated, searching for a personal transformation and a countercultural worldview. He said he found it first by reading “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” during a brief jail stint at age 20. During a second incarceration, Morton converted to Islam.
A fellow prisoner told him a war was coming between Muslims and non-Muslims, and he took up that cause, he told CSIS, fusing extremist politics to his new religious fervor. After his release, even as he graduated from Metropolitan College of New York and earned a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University in 2008, Morton associated with violent ideologues and became one himself.
Before his arrest in the federal case, Morton told CSIS, he had begun questioning his views. The way he was treated by agents, he said, made him start to see the good in the U.S. justice system.