A Virginia man who converted to Islam will serve 25 years in prison for trying to provide material support to the al-Shabaab terrorist group. He also admits issuing threats against the producers of "South Park," and anyone who participated in "Everyone Draw Muhammad Day" online.
Zachary Chesser, 21, faced up to 30 years in prison. He expressed remorse for his crimes during a sentencing hearing Thursday morning.
Writing under the name Talhah al-
In an especially forceful sentencing memorandum, prosecutors argued that the damage from Chesser's terrorist support activity will haunt his victims for the rest of their lives and cannot be undone by any change of heart.
"Chesser marked them for death for engaging in free expression that he found insulting as well," prosecutors wrote."These victims included a teenager in Mississippi and a young man from Texas depicted in a photo with his parents and a brother, along with the address of his 'possible church/school.' As Chesser pointed out for the killers in his audience on the Ansar Al Jihad Network, 'Just a place to start.'"
He also encouraged people to leave suspicious packages in public places in hopes law enforcement became desensitized to their presence. Then, real bombs could be planted without being detected.
His actions were "part of a consistent and longstanding course of conduct that included exhorting others to raise children to support al-Qaeda, help the mujahideen and fight against 'disbelievers,'" the prosecution memo said, in addition to distributing speeches of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in which he cited religious justification for killing people who insult Muhammad.
Chesser's threats, like those which came before him, cannot be erased. Nor can the chilling effect his actions have on public debate about radical Islam and terrorism. "As a result," the memo said, "the people whose murders Chesser solicited will always be marked as enemies of Islam and targets for those who seek to gain entrance to heaven by killing one - - and this is true regardless of whether Chesser is sincerely remorseful now or becomes sincerely remorseful in the future. His victims will continue to be at risk of kidnapping and beheading for years (if not the rest of their lives) because of his actions."
The entire memo bears reading. See it here.