PITTSBURGH - A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty yesterday to using the Internet to promote terror attacks against American military and civilian targets in posts he made on an Islamic extremist Web forum he moderated. He also pleaded guilty to having a loaded pistol when he allegedly bit two FBI agents who tried to question him.
Emerson Begolly, 22, faces a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison on the weapons charge and up to 10 years on one count of solicitation to commit a crime of violence. The weapons charge carries a maximum of life in prison, though it is extremely unusual for a defendant to plead guilty if such a sentence is on the table. A recommended sentence has been agreed upon but it remains under seal, according to those involved in the case.
Senior US District Court Judge Maurice Cohill Jr. ordered Begolly to remain jailed until he is sentenced Nov. 29.
Begolly has been jailed since he allegedly bit two FBI agents who approached him in a parked car while others searched the Pittsburgh-area homes of his divorced parents on Jan. 4 while investigating his activities.
He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Virginia last month on charges he encouraged terror attacks on public buildings and military facilities, transportation systems, cellphone towers, water plants, synagogues, Jewish schools, and other targets in the United States in posts to the Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum.
Begolly also posted comments praising a series of overnight shootings that targeted the Pentagon, the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., and other government-related buildings last October, saying, “God willing someone had acted on his solicitations,’’ Assistant US Attorney James Kitchen told the judge.
US Attorney David Hickton of Pittsburgh couldn’t say whether the former Marine charged in those shootings was aware of Begolly’s posts, or whether anyone has committed violence at Begolly’s urging.
“It is the top priority of the entire government, and particularly the Department of Justice, to protect Americans from attack,’’ Hickton said. Special agent in charge Michael Rodriguez of the Pittsburgh FBI office added, “I’m quite satisfied that we’ve protected the public interest in this instance.’’
Begolly was living with his father in Mayport, northeast of Pittsburgh, when agents searched that residence and the home of his mother.