A recent Oakton High School alumnus has pleaded guilty to providing support to a foreign terrorist organization and threatening the creators of the cartoon TV show "South Park."
In April, Zachary Adam Chesser, a 2008 graduate, issued an online warning to the creators of "South Park" after the show mockingly portrayed the Islamic prophet Muhammad in one of its episodes. Islamic law prohibits any depiction of the prophet.
Three months later, Chesser, 20, was arrested for allegedly aiding Al-Shabaab, a known foreign terrorist organization which the FBI calls "a violent and brutal extremist group with a number of individuals affiliated with al-Qaida."
According to court documents, Chesser was prevented from boarding a flight from New York to Uganda on July 10. Chesser admitted to agents he intended to travel from Uganda to Somalia, where Al-Shabaab is based.
Chesser had attempted to board the plane with his infant son, and court records say he brought his son with him as part of his "cover" to avoid detection of his intention to join the terrorist organization.
He also said during questioning he originally had intended to travel to Somalia in November 2009, but had changed his mind, according to court documents.
On Oct. 20 in federal court in Alexandria, Chesser pleaded guilty to three counts: communicating threats, soliciting others to engage in threatening physical force and providing material support to a designated terrorist organization.
Chesser faces 30 years in federal prison for the combined charges. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 25.
At Oakton High School, Chesser played football and basketball and was part of the school's crew team.
After high school, Chesser attended George Mason University for one semester in 2008 before dropping out, according to the university.
According to an affidavit filed in federal court, Chesser married his wife, Proscovia Nzabanita, in 2009, and they had a son. He worked briefly as a caretaker at the Islamic Center of Northern Virginia on Shirley Gate Road in Fairfax. Federal court records state Chesser became fascinated with the radical teachings of controversial Muslim cleric Anwar Aulaqi, who formerly was an imam at the Dar al-Hijra mosque in Falls Church.
Nzabanita is accused of making false statements to law enforcement authorities during their investigation of Chesser. As part of Chesser's plea agreement, the U.S. Attorney's office in Alexandria has agreed not to prosecute her for aiding and abetting Chesser as long as she pleads guilty to the false statement charge, which could yield up to five years of imprisonment.
Chesser's attorney, Michael Nachmanoff, called Chesser's case "remarkably complicated," adding his client has "voluntarily renounced violent jihad" and has shown remorse for his actions.