ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A northern Virginia man who warned the creators of the animated TV show "South Park" that they risked death for mocking the prophet Muhammad is scheduled to plead guilty to supporting an al-Qaida linked terrorist group, according to court records.
Zachary Chesser of Bristow, Va., a 20-year-old dropout from George Mason University, is scheduled for a plea hearing Wednesday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., court records show. He is charged with providing material support to a terrorist group, communicating threats and soliciting crimes of violence.
According to a court affidavit, Chesser tried to join the al-Shabab terror group in Somalia earlier this year and posted online propaganda for them. Chesser also allegedly took his infant son with him to the airport to make his travel appear more innocuous.
A call to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Alexandria was not immediately returned Tuesday. Chesser's attorney, federal public defender Michael Nachmanoff, declined comment Tuesday.
Before Chesser's arrest in July on the terror charges, he was best known for posting a harshly worded attack on the creators of the "South Park" cartoon for their perceived mockery of the prophet Muhammad.
Prosecutors say that Chesser tried twice in the last year to travel to Somalia and join al-Shabab as a foreign fighter. The most recent attempt came July 10, when Chesser tried to take his infant son with him on a flight from New York to Uganda, but was denied entry to the flight because he was on the government's no-fly list.
After his latest attempt to leave the country, Chesser apparently tried convincing FBI agents he had renounced his extremist views and said he would work for the FBI if the government helped him travel to Africa, according to the affidavit. Instead of accepting Chesser's offer, FBI agents arrested him.
According to prosecutors, Chesser also bragged to FBI agents that he had coined the phrase "open source jihad," to highlight the use of online media outlets to distribute Web videos and other propaganda. Chesser said he believes that radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and other terrorists incorporated the concept in the magazine "Inspire," a recently launched English language propaganda magazine run by al-Qaida's branch in Yemen.
Earlier this week, prosecutors also charged Chesser's wife, Proscovia Kampire Nzabanita, also of Bristow, with making false statements to authorities. The details of that allegation have not yet been made public.