Muslim convert Jesse Curtis Morton pleaded guilty Thursday to using a Web site he created to post threats against South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.
Jesse Curtis Morton, 33, of Brooklyn, admitted in court papers filed with his plea that his Revolution Muslim site was an outlet for al-Qaida propaganda. He also acknowledged that he used the now-defunct site to make thinly veiled threats against others whom he considered enemies of Islam.
Morton also uses the name Younus Abdullah Mohammad. He worked closely with Zachary Adam Chesser, sentenced last year to 25 years in prison for the South Park threats and other crimes.
Days after Chesser was arrested in July 2010, and fearing that he’d be charged as well, Morton left the United States and took a teaching job in Morocco. Arrested last October in Morocco, he has been in custody since then, mostly in solitary confinement at the Alexandria, Virginia city jail.
Morton posted the first issue of the al-Qaida magazine Inspire on his site in 2010, posting a disclaimer saying it “should not be deemed that we are displaying any advice or support, material or otherwise, for any institution deemed illegal or terroristic by the U.S. government and its thought police.”
The magazine included a specific call from al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki for the assassination of Seattle cartoonist Molly Nelson, who had suggested “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” following the controversy over a 2010 South Park episode depicting the prophet Muhammad in a bear costume. Nelson was forced to go into hiding; many Muslims consider drawings of Muhammad to be offensive.
Morton and Chesser worked closely on making statements responding to the South Park controversy that they thought would be allowed legally, but which would still state a clear threat that would encourage others to act violently against Stone and Parker. The statements “predicted” that South Park’s creators would have the same fate as Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, murdered in 2004 for making a movie that was deemed insulting to Islam. Earlier, Chesser posted a photo of Van Gogh’s corpse and the address of Comedy Central, which airs South Park — and a suggestion that readers “pay a visit” to Stone and Parker.
“He’s acknowledged he broke the law, and it’s just for him to face punishment,” Morton’s lawyer, James Hundley, said after Thursday’s hearing. “He admitted crossing the line, though he was trying very hard not to.”
After the South Park affair, Morton and Chesser discussed the fact that “Revolution Muslim” had become the 68th most searched term on Google. They also sought ways to take advantage of their exposure, an FBI affidavit said.
“In some ways, the South Park threats were probably the least significant of the things that were happening” with Revolution Muslim, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, who prosecuted the case.
A Comedy Central spokeswoman declined comment Thursday on Morton’s guilty plea.