American Extremist Who Threatened Cartoonist Molly Norris and South Park Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone Sentenced to Nearly Twelve Years in Prison


Photograph of the Albert V. Bryan U.S. Federal District Courthouse by CRNI Deputy Director Drew Rougier-Chapman

On Friday June 22, 2012, Jesse Curtis Morton from Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced to eleven and a half years in federal prison for posting online threats against cartoonist Molly Norris, and, against the creators of South Park, an animated Comedy Central television program.  Morton, a 33-year-old Muslim convert and the co-founder of the new-defunct Revolution Muslim website, was arrested last year in Morocco and deported to the United States.  He pleaded guilty in February to making threatening communications, using the Internet to put others in fear and using his position of authority within radical circles to conspire to commit murder.  The sentence was handed down in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. 

Jesse Morton along with Zachary Chesser of Virginia, the other co-founder of the Revolution Muslim website, posted threatening communications against cartoonist Molly Norris, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and others that Morton and Chesser had concluded were enemies of Islam. Chesser is currently serving 25 years in a United States prison for providing material support to the Somalian militant group Al-Shabaab.  Morton and Chesser made the online threat to Parker and Stone that they “will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh” if they air an upcoming episode which they were led to believe from the previous episode would include a depiction of the Prophet Mohammed.  The threat referenced a Dutch filmmaker who was murdered in 2004 for directing a documentary about violence targeting Muslim women.  The online threat referencing the murdered filmmaker included a photograph of his corpse.  The two addresses of Comedy Central’s offices and the address of South Park Studios were also posted on the Revolution Muslim website.

Morton posted an equally threatening article by Yemeni-American al-Awlaki directed at Molly Norris.  In that article al-Awlaki wrote that Molly is a "prime target" for execution and that her "proper abode is hellfire."

Cartoon by Comedy Central/South Park Studios

Parker and Stone were deemed enemies for creating an episode that hinted their next episode would feature a depiction of the Prophet Mohammed.  (Some Muslims believe they are forbidden from depicting their Prophet.  Extremists believe even non-Muslims are forbidden from depicting their Prophet.  The most extreme of the extremists furthermore believe they are God’s agents commanded to kill anyone, believer or non-believer, who depicts their Prophet.)  The next episode, Episode 201, as eventually submitted to Comedy Central did not depict Mohammed (though an episode that aired prior to the Danish Cartoon Controversy, did include a depiction of Mohammed, without any controversy) – just Santa Claus in a bear suit.  The episode as submitted by Parker and Stone did however include jokes and rebukes aimed at anyone who tries to silence criticism through intimidation.  Executives at Comedy Central fearing the very intimidation Parker and Stone were trying to stand up to, censored those jokes and rebukes, over the objections of Trey and Matt.  The heavily censored episode aired on April 21, 2010.  To hear Parker's and Stone's take on the censoring of their work, click on South Park Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone Discussing the Prophet Mohammed Episode at the National Film and Television School of London.  Please be aware that this YouTube audio interview includes still cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, and, a couple of profanities. 

Molly Norris was deemed by Morton and Chesser an enemy of Islam for creating in 2010 a website and poster both titled, "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day."  For her own safety, Molly has gone into hiding.  With the help of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Molly has assumed a new identity. 

Jesse Morton, who is also known as Younus Abdullah Muhammed, apologized at the sentencing.  According to the Associated Press, he confessed that he had “contributed to a clash of civilizations.”  Prosecutor Gordon Kromberg however sought a long sentence for the defendant.  Kromberg characterized Jesse Morton’s philosophy as, “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.”  During the sentencing U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady said, “there has to be religious tolerance in the world.  There has to be freedom of speech.”

To learn more about the sentencing of Jesse Morton, click on Man Who Used Web Site to “Warn” ‘South Park’ Creators Sentenced to Nearly 12 Years, by Lisa de Moraes, of the Washington Post blog The TV Column, Maker of ‘South Park’ Threats Gets 11 ½ Years in Prison by Josh Gerstein of Politico.com, and, Man Sentenced for Online ‘South Park’ Threat by Matthew Barakat of the Associated Press/Yahoo! News.   

Click on our previous article Two Al Qaeda Militants Who Had Threatened an American Cartoonist With Death Are Killed By US Forces to learn more about the fate of Morton’s collaborators Anwar al-Awlaki, and Samir Khan, the co-editor of the English language Al Qaeda magazine Inspire.   To learn more about Colleen LaRoe, aka Jihad Jane, a subscriber to Revolution Muslim, click on our previous article A Young Man, Who Plotted to Kill Swedish Cartoonist Lars Vilks, Pleads Guilty in US District Court to Conspiring to Provide Material Support to Terrorists.  Click on The Americas section of our Art to Die For collection to learn more about Molly Norris.