Instant messaging conversations allegedly written by Emerson Begolly reveal him as anti-Semitic, extreme, armed and dangerous. But they also reveal what he claimed was the genesis of his extremist views: an interaction with a Christian pastor who was a registered sex offender.
Begolly’s is a cautionary tale about the threat of homegrown terrorism: the radicalized 21-year-old college student reportedly obsessed over violence and martyrdom and said he was disgusted by a country where “homosexuality… abortion… assisted suicide, whores, and dru(g)s r all legal.”
But it’s also the strange story of a loner living on a farm in a small Pennsylvania town who had easy access to weapons and vented his frustrations with his family (a father who dressed him up in Nazi regalia and hit him as a child and an estranged mother with reported mental health issues of her own) in jihadist web forums.In explaining his reaction when two FBI agents entered his vehicle in the parking lot of a Burger King earlier this month, his lawyer brought up his Asperger’s syndrome, characterized by difficulties with social interaction. But in the circles of online Islamic extremists — where conversations rapidly oscillated between beheadings, “Law and Order,” Muslim dating sites, family problems and hatred of Jews — Begolly seemingly fit right in.
Begolly confided in fellow jihadist enthusiast “Khalidabdalhakim” in an online conversation in November that he “really started to hate this society” after an encounter with a Christian minister at a young age.
“when i was like 13 or 14 some queer he tried to kidnap me,” Begolly wrote. “he came to me and put his hand on my le[g] and said…hey sweetie and i said who r u? he said he was a christian minister…he said the world would be a better place without women. he [g]ot closer and whisper in my ears… there would be just us men… but alhamdullah… i escaped.”
In Begolly’s retelling of the story, he contacted the police to report the incident. Police, he said, confirmed that the man was indeed a minister, but was also a registered sex offender who had raped a boy years ago. “i am still traumatized,” he wrote.
The 79 pages of instant messages allegedly written by Begolly were just part of the trove of new evidence federal prosecutors filed Thursday in the case, in which he faces charges of assaulting two FBI agents.
Many of Begolly’s alleged conversations centered around guns and violence, and, according to the Associated Press, prosecutors said in court that Begolly communicated online with Colleen LaRose, better known as “Jihad Jane,” as well as Zachary Chesser, who pleaded guilty to threatening the creators of “South Park.”
His ideology is an eccentric and disjointed mix of Islamic extremism, an admiration for Adolf Hitler, hatred for both Democrats and Republicans (the former for their support of “queers and abortions and anti firearms” and the latter because they “destory [sic] other countrys”), racism against African-Americans, admiration for the founding fathers and a militia mentality.
“when i wake up in the morning…the first thing i think about is killing…seriously… i think about killing all the time,” he wrote in one conversation. “as i type this…my AK is propped up next to me…mujahideen style.”
He was training, he wrote, to be killed as a martyr and believed he’d be rewarded in heaven, likely with 79 virgins.
When the cops found him, they’d find a “bulge in my pants…they know i see something when i am killed that make me realllllllllly happy.”
Fantasies about women played a big role in Begolly’s discussions. He recalled a dream he had where he was at a “really fancy dinner” with flowers, caviar and sterling silver ware, where he encountered “the most beautiful girl i ever see” who promised to marry him if he was martyred.
But in real life, he said he was ashamed to go on a date because of his poor manners.
In response to an online friend who asked him about his “planning for the american front,” he replied that “it is looooooooooong term” and stressed the importance of diligent planning.
Begolly was dedicated to what he called his ‘training.’ In a conversation with ‘Hassan,’ he described shooting a pumpkin with his AK47 from 1000 feet away, and boasted that he could ‘hit anything with a scope.’
One possible plan, he explained to Khalidabdalhakim, was to violently take over a school — like the 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis — in return for the release of high-profile Muslim prisoners. On the top of the list of people Begolly wanted to free was Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who is serving a sentence of 86 years for trying to kill American soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan, and Omar Abdel-Rahman, the alleged leader of an Egyptian terrorist organization, who is serving a life sentence for “seditious conspiracy.”
Concerned about whether Khalidabdalhakim would approve of his tactics, Begolly asked if he would object to using a child or unarmed noncombatant as a target. “plz dont think im a psycho,” he wrote.
Begolly also floated the idea of organizing a suicide terrorist attack by purchasing an old Buick, filling it with gas tanks and then lighting the car on fire. Desire to become a “shaheed” — the Arabic word for martyr — was a common thread in the conversations. “the shaheed feels no pain except like a bee sting,” he wrote.
Clues about Begolly’s unhappy home life are scattered through the transcript. In one IM conversation, Begolly says his father Sean Begolly physically abused his stepmother. “i heard my stepmoms overies burst…i think it was cause…my dad kicked her…” Begolly wrote that his father is verbally abusive and “used to hit me when i was small to make aman out of me.”
Evidence also brought into question whether the suspect’s father knew more about his son’s activity than he let on in court. “u know my father is aware of my being a admin on [a jihadist forum] and he doesnt care cause him own militia they think obama wants to kill white ppl,” Begolly wrote on Nov. 22.
At times, Begolly almost sounds like a typical — albeit depressed — Pennsylvania boy. He describes his love of hiking and walking in the snow. But statement like “i have no ambition in life… i don’t care if i do get married… or finish school… or anything… all i want to do is… please God…” show that Begolly was dangerously fixated on doing what he believed was a religious duty.
“i am a coward,” he wrote. “cause i have every means… but yet i am here… sitting on my ass.”
“Usama is just a man too u know… someday he will die… eitherfighting… or of his liver issues… but there is always someone,” Begolly allegedly wrote.
Begolly wondered why the “the man” hadn’t come to visit him yet. “i will never go to jail i am like the american forefathers whose ideals i do think were good i say live free or die,” he wrote.
If he ever was arrested, Begolly knew exactly the lawyer from “Law & Order” he’d pick.
“u know i met sam waterston… if i was ever arrested for terrorism id call him and get him to be my lawyer,” Begolly wrote. “i don’t think he’s jewish but either way id call up jewey jewstein and the judge would take one look at the size of his nose and throw the case out.”
But Begolly never thought that day would come.
“i think they r chicken,” he wrote. “if i had the choice between 12 jourors [sic] and 6 palbearers [sic] id choose the latter any day ;).”
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review posted this video of some of the evidence the FBI showed at the detention hearing on Thursday.