Wife of Zachary Chesser pleads guilty to making false statement
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Proscovia Kampire Nzabanita, 26, of Bristow, Va., pleaded guilty today to making a false statement to a special agent investigating her husband, Zachary Chesser, and his attempt to travel to Somalia to join the terrorist group known as Al-Shabaab.
The guilty plea was announced by Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and John G. Perren, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office.
Pursuant to the plea agreement, Nzabanita, who is a native of Uganda, will not be incarcerated but instead receive probation. The agreement also requires her to leave the United States within 120 days and relinquish her legal status in the United States. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 28, 2011, before United States District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee.
According to her plea agreement, Nzabanita admitted that, in November 2009, she and Chesser attempted to leave the United States and travel to Somalia so that her husband could join the terrorist group known as Al-Shabaab and engage in violent jihad. They ultimately postponed their trip because Nzabanita could not obtain her passport from her mother, who possessed the passport but refused to release it because she feared that Nzabanita would use it to travel to Somalia and support a terrorist group. Subsequently, Nzabanita gave birth to a child and could not travel.
In May 2010, she and her husband applied for a United States passport for their infant son so that he could travel to Somalia with them. Nzabanita admitted that in applying for the passport, she provided to the United States Department of State the address of a friend as Nzabanita’s permanent address, to ensure that Nzabanita’s mother would not find the infant’s passport in the mail delivered to her residence and then withhold it from Nzabanita to prevent Nzabanita from leaving the United States to travel to a Muslim country in Africa.
Nzabanita further admitted that, on May 28, 2010, Chesser told her that he was going to bring their infant son with him to Africa as a cover. On June 4, 2010, Nzabanita told Chesser that, no matter what, he was to take their infant son with him on his trip to Somalia. Nzabanita told her husband that he needed to take their infant son with him for his protection. On June 6, 2010, Chesser instructed her to assert that he went to Uganda solely to obtain a copy of her birth certificate if she was questioned about him by law enforcement authorities. On June 24, 2010, Nzabanita and her husband suspected that their apartment had been surreptitiously entered by law enforcement. As a result, Nzabanita and her husband began destroying items in the apartment by pouring water and bleach on them.
Nzabanita admitted that on July 9, 2010, she and her husband left their home in Virginia and drove with their infant son to a hotel in Maryland where they spent the night, in preparation for Chesser’s bringing their son with him on a flight to Uganda to make it appear less likely that Chesser was actually continuing on to Somalia to help Al-Shabaab. On July 10, 2010, she dropped Chesser and their infant son off at J.F.K. Airport in New York, for her husband to take their son onto a flight with service to Uganda so that Chesser could ultimately make his way to Somalia to help Al-Shabaab. Nzabanita further admitted that she planned to follow Chesser and rejoin her infant son in Somalia after Ramadan.
On July 21, 2010, Nzabanita was questioned by a special agent of the United States Secret Service outside of Nzabanita’s residence. In her plea agreement, Nzabanita admitted that in this interview she falsely denied knowing that Chesser attempted to fly to Uganda on July 10, 2010, so that he could ultimately make his way to Somalia to help al-Shabaab. Instead, she falsely stated that the only purpose of his trip was to go to Uganda to retrieve her birth certificate. Nzabanita’s false statement was material to the government’s investigation of Zachary Chesser for providing material support for terrorism and related offenses, and was capable of influencing the investigators in their conduct of that investigation.
Entry of Nzabanita’s guilty plea was a condition of Chesser’s plea agreement on October 20, 2010, to a three-count criminal information before United States District Judge Liam O’Grady. Chesser pled guilty to a three-count criminal information that included charges of communicating threats against the writers of the South Park television show, soliciting violent jihadists to desensitize law enforcement, and attempting to provide material support to Al-Shabaab. Chesser faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 25, 2010.
This case is being investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Gordon Kromberg and Thomas H. McQuillan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney John T. Gibbs of the Counterterrorism Section in the Justice Department’s National Security Division are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.uspci.uscourts.gov.