WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Muslim convert from New York was sentenced on Friday to 11-1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to threatening the writers of the satirical “South Park” television show for their depiction of the Prophet Mohammad and to other criminal charges.
Jesse Curtis Morton, 33, who is also known as Younus Abdullah Muhammed, was put on three years of probation after he completes his prison term. The sentence was handed down in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Morton, who ran a website that encouraged Muslims to engage in violence against enemies of Islam, pleaded guilty in February to making threatening communications, using the Internet to put others in fear and using his position as leader of the Revolution Muslim organization’s Internet sites to conspire to commit murder.
“Jesse Morton sought to inspire Muslims to engage in terrorism by providing doctrinal justification for violence against civilians in the name of Islam,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said.
“His crimes not only put people’s lives forever in danger, but they also chilled free expression out of fear of retaliation by violent terrorists,” MacBride said in a statement.
He had worked on website postings with Zachary Chesser of Virginia, who pleaded guilty in October 2010 to sending threatening communications to the “South Park” writers and to other charges.
Morton was arrested in Rabat, Morocco, last year and brought back to the United States, where he pleaded guilty. He had faced a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Morton admitted he helped Chesser in taking repeated steps in April 2010 to encourage violent extremists to attack the “South Park” writers for the episode on the cable channel Comedy Central that featured Mohammad in a bear suit.
Most Muslims consider any depiction of the founder of Islam as offensive. Morton and Chesser posted where the writers resided and encouraged online readers to “pay them a visit,” according to court documents.
Morton worked with Chesser to draft a message for the website about the “South Park” threats and they posted a final version of the statement on various extremist online forums.
Morton also conspired with Chesser and others to solicit the murder of an artist tied to the “Everyone Draw Mohammad Day” movement in May 2010, including posting online a magazine that included the artist in a hit list for violent extremists. Chesser was sentenced to 25 years in prison last year.
The case is USA v. Morton, No. 12-cr-35, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Reporting By James Vicini; Editing by Bill Trott