nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Begolly (W.D. Pa. Aug. 9, 2011) (guilty plea)

August 9, 2011

* United States v. Begolly (W.D. Pa. Aug. 9, 2011) (guilty plea)

Well, for better or worse this ends what would otherwise likely have been a very interesting First Amendment case involving the constitutionality of charging solicitation based on online incitement to terrorism (as well as the constitutionality of prosecuting for the publication of bomb-making instructions). In any event, Emerson Begolly today pled to the solicitation count, and it would appear the other charges have been dropped in exchange. From the press release:

WASHINGTON – Emerson Winfield Begolly, 22, of New Bethlehem, Pa., pleaded guilty today in Pittsburgh to soliciting others to engage in acts of terrorism within the United States and to using a firearm during and in relation to an assault on FBI agents.

According to information presented by the government in court, Begolly was an active administrator on the Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum (AMEF), which is an internationally used Islamic extremist Internet forum. Using the pseudonym of Abu Nancy, Begolly systematically solicited jihadists to use firearms, explosives and propane tanks against targets such as police stations, post offices, Jewish schools and daycare centers, military facilities, train lines, bridges, cell phone towers and water plants.

In the summer of 2010, Begolly urged jihadists on the AMEF to “write their legacy in blood.” Begolly promised a special place in the afterlife for violent action in the name of Allah. Following the reported shootings in Northern Virginia at the Pentagon and the Marine Corps Museum in October 2010, Begolly posted a comment online that praised the shootings and hoped the shooter had followed his previous postings encouraging similar acts of violence. On Dec. 28, 2010, Begolly further solicited his AMEF audience to violence by posting a manual on how to manufacture a bomb.

Days later, on Jan. 4, 2011, FBI agents were assaulted by Begolly as they attempted to prevent him from reaching a loaded 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, which he had concealed on his body. While violently struggling with the agents, Begolly bit the agents on their fingers in an attempt to free himself to reach his firearm. His actions are consistent with a posting in which he urged his audience not to be taken alive by law enforcement, to always carry a loaded firearm, and to aggressively resist any law enforcement encounter including biting fingers if necessary.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Maurice B. Cohill scheduled sentencing for Nov. 29, 2011.