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Zachary Chesser, Who Threatened "South Park" Creators, Admits Al-Qaida Terror Link

Zachary Chesser, Who Launched Online Attacks On "South Park," Admits Helping Al-Qaida Linked Terrorists
Zachary Chesser seen in a video he posted online in March 2003 (CBS)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CBS/WUSA/AP) Zachary Chesser pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to supporting an al Qaida-linked terrorist group in Somalia, and threatening the creators of the animated television series "South Park" for what he perceived as insults to the prophet Muhammad.

The 20-year-old, from Bristow, Va., is expected to receive a prison term of at least 20 years when he is sentenced in February.

CBS affiliate WUSA reports Chesser struck a plea bargain in U.S. District Court, admitting that tried twice to travel to Somalia in the last year to join the al-Shabab terror network and engage in holy war. He was thwarted the first time because his mother-in-law would not relinquish the passport of his wife, who intended to travel with him.

His second attempt failed because he had been placed on the no-fly list. He made it as far as JFK Airport in New York, and planned to take his infant son with him on a flight to Uganda to appear less threatening.

He also admitted posting online propaganda on behalf of al-Shabab. On several occasions, Chesser posted speeches by radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki that said killing those who insult Muhammad was justified.

In addition to providing support to al-Shabab, Chesser pleaded guilty to communicating threats to the creators of the cartoon "South Park," Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Upset about an episode in which a character in a bear costume was linked to the prophet Muhammad, Chesser posted Internet messages calling for death to those who defamed Muhammad, and links designed to help readers identify Stone and Parker's Colorado residence.

Chesser admitted as part of the plea bargain that his postings were designed to incite others to attack Stone and Parker.

According to WUSA, his attorney said Chesser is "deeply remorseful" for his actions.

Chesser could face up to 30 years in prison. According to The Associated Press, he is likely to receive at least 20 years because the plea agreement bars the defense from seeking a term of less than 20 years from U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady.