A New York City man who ran a popular jihadist website and maintained ties to a half-dozen other alleged and convicted homegrown U.S. terrorists pled guilty today to conspiring to solicit the murder of the writers of the cartoon comedy "South Park."
Jesse Curtis Morton, AKA Younus Abdullah Muhammad, admitted that he had used his Revolution Muslim website to encourage the murder of an artist involved in "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" in May 2010. Morton confessed that he had also encouraged extremists to kill the writers of "South Park" because of an episode of the show that depicted the prophet Mohammed in a bear suit. Morton's coconspirator, Zachary Chesser, has already pled guilty to both charges.
Morton, 33, also admitted to links with other prominent homegrown terrorists. According to a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, he had been in touch with, and published work by, Samir Khan, the U.S. citizen and al Qaeda propagandist killed with radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike last year. He had also warned alleged would-be terrorist Jose Pimentel, arrested in New York last year with bombmaking materials, to stay away from an individual Morton believed to be an FBI informant.
Morton pled guilty in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia and faces five years in prison for each of three charges. He was arrested in 2011 after fleeing to Morocco.
"Jesse Morton operated Revolution Muslim to radicalize those who saw and heard his materials online and to incite them to engage in violence against those they believed to be enemies of Islam," said Neil MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "We may never know all of those who were inspired to engage in terrorism because of Revolution Muslim, but the string of recent terrorism cases with ties to Morton's organization demonstrates the threat it posed to our national security."
McBride credited the FBI and the NYPD, among other law enforcement agencies, for the conviction. Officials told ABC News that the NYPD, which arrested Jose Pimentel in November, had been aware of Morton as early as 2005.
"Fortunately, NYPD Intelligence Division detectives were in a position to learn exactly how Morton used the Internet to conspire to solicit murder, and how he encouraged others to solicit the murder of an artist whose material he deemed offensive," said New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. "Morton was in our sights for some time because of the violence being promulgated by his group, culminating in conspiracy to solicit murder."
Morton said that he had founded Revolution Muslim in December 2007. According to the statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, he and associated used the site's online forums to encourage radical Muslims to support Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and to engage in violent acts.
In July 2010, Morton authorized Samir Khan, who ran al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's on-line magazine "Inspire," to post on Revolution Muslim. Morton posted the first edition of the English-language "Inspire," which contained an article called, "How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom," on Revolution Muslim. Earlier, Morton had published articles in the magazine that Khan ran in the U.S. before he moved to Yemen to launch "Inspire."
According to the statement of facts, Abdel Hameed Shehedah of Staten Island, New York, now charged with lying about an attempt to join a Taliban affiliate in Pakistan, regularly attended Revolution Muslim meetings and made his own website a feeder site to Revolution Muslim. Mohamed Hamoud Alessa and Carlos Almonte of New Jersey were also members of the Revolution Muslim organization, according to the statement. Both men were arrested in June 2010 en route to Somalia to join a terrorist group and have pled guilty.
Morton was also in touch with Rezwan Ferdaus of Massachusetts, now charged with plotting to U.S. remote-controlled aircraft to attack the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol. Morton counseled Ferdaus via email that martyrdom operations can have "enormous benfits [sic] in a war of attrition."
Morton's associate Jose Pimentel was arrested in his New York City apartment in November after allegedly assembling a bomb on his mother's couch using the instructions from "Inspire." Pimentel had allegedly contacted Morton to tell him he was a big fan of Revolution Muslim. According to a five-count criminal complaint, Pimentel wanted to attack police officers and "U.S. servicemen and women returning from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Other homegrown terrorists who were known to read or post on Revolution Muslim include Colleen LaRose, AKA Jihad Jane, a Pennsylvania woman charged with numerous terror offenses, and Antonio Martinez of Baltimore, charged with plotting to bomb a military recruiting center.