US man gets prison in terror promotion case
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A U.S. man whom authorities called a “homegrown, radical extremist” was sentenced Tuesday to eight and a half years in prison for helping lead an Internet forum that promoted terrorist attacks against American military and civilian targets.
The sentence for Emerson Begolly, 24, includes time for having a concealed gun and biting an FBI agent when he was arrested in 2011.
Begolly apologized for his posts and disavowed his stated beliefs, telling the judge his comments were “completely reckless.” He added, “All I want to do is pursue a path of peace and righteousness.”
Begolly’s online rants were primarily meant to attract attention from others on the forum, public defender Marketa Sims argued, though she and Begolly acknowledged others might have been incited to violence.
But Assistant U.S Attorney Jimmy Kitchen said Begolly’s willingness to kill or be killed was summed up in a post: “If I have the choice between 12 jurors and six pallbearers, I’ll choose the latter any day.”
Kitchen said Begolly’s posts — including instructions to shoot the heads or legs of law enforcement officers to avoid their bulletproof vests — proved he hoped to cause greater harm.
All parties agreed Begolly has struggled with autism and mental health issues since he was a young child. He can’t drive a car, never learned to ride a bike and never had a girlfriend.
Begolly’s sentence was far less than the 15-year term he agreed to when he pleaded guilty nearly two years ago. He will receive credit for 30 months he’s spent in jail since his arrest.
U.S. Attorney David Hickton would not explain why prosecutors agreed to a lesser sentence or whether it was because Begolly has cooperated against others the FBI said he chatted with on the forum, including convicted terrorists Colleen LaRose and Zachary Chesser.
LaRose pleaded guilty in 2011 to conspiring with others to try to kill a Swedish cartoonist who had offended Muslims and faces life in prison when she’s sentenced in October.
Chesser is serving 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to threatening the creators of the irreverent “South Park” cartoon series for perceived insults to the prophet Muhammad, and for trying to travel to Somalia to join the al-Shabab terrorist group.