A Muslim convert and college dropout was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to attempting to provide material support to a Somali-based terrorist group and threatening the lives of the writers of the “South Park” satiric television show for portraying the prophet Muhammad in a bear suit.
Zachary Adam Chesser, 21, of Fairfax, Va., had also posted on a militant Islamic website the names and addresses of participants in another satiric effort, an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” sponsored by a group of artists on Facebook. He advised the militant Muslim followers of the website: “Just a place to start.”
Lawyers for Mr. Chesser portray him as a confused, immature person who tended to dive wholeheartedly into new experiences. In an 18-month period in 2009 and 2010, he went from being a student at George Mason University to converting to Islam and becoming a close follower of radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. In the process he came to embrace the most violent form of Islam advocated by Al Qaeda and other Muslim terror groups.
Since his arrest last year, Chesser has repudiated violence and says he feels remorse for his earlier conduct. His lawyers had urged that he receive a 20-year sentence.