A Muslim convert from Brooklyn was sentenced Friday to nearly 12 years in prison for posting online threats against the creators of the "South Park" television show and others he deemed enemies of Islam.
The sentence came after Jesse Curtis Morton, 33, offered an apology for his conduct, saying he "contributed to a clash of civilizations" by espousing a violent ideology.
"I justified atrocities by Muslims simply because they were carried out by the weak against the powerful," he said.
Morton founded the now-defunct Revolution Muslim website. He said that he wanted the site to offer a forum for nuanced dialogue on relations between the Muslim world and the West and that he thought his website was protected by the First Amendment.
However, he admitted that the website devolved into coarse calls for violent jihad and that he crossed the line by posting the al-Qaida magazine Inspire on the site. The magazine called for killing a cartoonist from Seattle who promoted "Everybody Draw Muhammad day" and included an article titled "How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom."
Morton and another defendant, Zachary Chesser, used the website to deliver thinly veiled threats against the creators of the "South Park" television show for perceived insults to the prophet Muhammad who was depicted in a bear costume on the program. Chesser earlier received a 25-year sentence.
Prosecutor Gordon Kromberg said a stiff sentence for Morton was necessary because of the nature of the crime. He said Morton's site inspired a variety of would-be jihadis, including "Jihad Jane" Colleen LaRose; Antonio Benjamin Martinez, who plotted to bomb a military recruiting station; and Jose Pimental, who plotted to assassinate members of the U.S. military returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
He also corresponded with American al-Qaida member Samir Khan on writing an article for use as al-Qaida propaganda.
Kromberg said the posting of al-Qaida's instructional article on how to build a kitchen bomb will inevitably lead to someone's death in the future. He said Morton abused his free speech protections to call for the murder of those whose speech he found offensive.
"Make a TV show we don't like -- we'll slit your throat. Draw a cartoon we don't like -- we'll slit your throat," he said, summarizing Morton's philosophy.
U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady said Morton was a bright man who could have used his intellect and energy for good but instead took a "horrible turn."
Defense attorney James Hundley had sought a prison term of less than five years. He argued that Morton by and large tried to keep his website on the right side of the line between free speech and advocating violence, but admitted that at times Morton crossed it.