A second man has been charged in connection with threats made last year against the producers of the Comedy Central program "South Park."
Jesse Curtis Morton, (aka Younus Abdullah Mohammad) is charged with communicating threats. Morton helped run a website, RevolutionMuslim, with Zachary Chesser. Chesser is serving a 25-year prison term after pleading guilty to a similar charge and to trying to provide material support to the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab.
After a "South Park" episode in April 2010 mocked the violent reaction of radical Islamists by portraying the Prophet Mohammad covered by a bear suit, Chesser posted a statement warning producers Matt Stone and Trey Parker that they "will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show."
Van Gogh was a Dutch filmmaker who was killed on an Amsterdam street after producing a short film protesting the treatment of women in Islam.
According to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Paula Menges, Chesser then collaborated with Morton on a "clarification statement" triggered by media inquiries.
"The Clarification Statement contained pages of justification under Islamic law for the death of those who insult Islam or defame its prophet, and for Muslims to bring about such deaths," Menges wrote. "In it, Morton and Chesser asserted in pertinent part that 'we will never tolerate the mocking or insulting of any one of the prophets,' and explained that the Islamic ruling on this situation was that 'the punishment is death.'"
Though the statement indicated they were not inciting violence, it included a quote from Osama bin Laden that threatened those responsible for Danish cartoons depicting Mohammad with "the freedom of our actions" as payback for their free speech.
That, Menges wrote, crosses the line between protected speech and conveying a threat because it warned Stone and Parker they "would be on the receiving end of actions analogous to those of bin Laden if they refused to change their ways."
The clarification statement included a picture of Van Gogh's body after a stranger killed him "for making a film that was perceived to have insulted Islam." Even if they were not making a direct threat, their statement posted on radical Islamist websites could inspire others to act. "[B]y issuing that statement, they certainly knew that violence was likely to be incited by it anyway."
In an interview on CNN before the "South Park" controversy, Morton said Islam commands Muslims to terrorize disbelievers. "The Koran says very clearly in the Arabic language ... this means "terrorize them." It's a command from Allah."