Muslim pleads guilty over Web “South Park” threat

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South Park

South Park

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.

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