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A Virginia man who encouraged the murder of Matt Stone and Trey Parker over an episode of South Park that portrayed the Muslim prophet Muhammed dressed as a bear was sentenced to 25 years in prison Thursday.
Zachary Chesser had written in multiple Internet posts over a four-month period last year that the South Park creators should “wind up like Theo Van Gogh,” who was murdered by a radical Muslim because he objected to the Dutch filmmaker’s negative portrayal of Islamic society.
But Stone and Parker were only a piece of the case against Chesser, who also tried on two occasions to join al-Shabab, a terrorist group in Somalia, and encouraged like-minded people on the Internet to leave suspicious packages in public places in the U.S. so that if and when real bombs were planted they’d go unnoticed.
Chesser also encouraged violence against cartoonists who were planning to participate in “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” which was a plan — that never came to fruition — created to show support for Parker and Stone and for free speech. He even supplied the necessary contact information for various cartoonists.
In October, Chesser pleaded guilty to charges that he provided material support to terrorists and that he communicated threats of violence. He faced up to 30 years and he agreed that he’d request no less than 20 years.
The threats against Stone and Parker ceased in July, a few days after Chesser, who was 20 at the time, and his infant son were prevented from boarding a flight to Somalia.
“Zachary Chesser will spend 25 years in prison for advocating the murder of U.S. citizens for engaging in free speech about his religion,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said Thursday. “His actions caused people throughout the country to fear speaking out — even in jest — to avoid being labeled as enemies who deserved to be killed.”
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