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Press Release

Jury Rejects “South Park” Terror Convict’s First Amendment Claims

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Illinois
Former inmate at the United States Penitentiary in Marion sued prison officials for violating his First Amendment Rights

After deliberating for fifty-five minutes on May 24, 2017, six jurors in Benton, Illinois, unanimously rejected a First Amendment lawsuit brought by Zachary Chesser. Chesser’s lawsuit claimed that his former unit manager and case manager from the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, unlawfully retaliated against him for drafting an e-mail while he was incarcerated there in 2012. United States Attorney Donald S. Boyce of the Southern District of Illinois announced the verdict today.

Chesser appeared at the trial by video from the administrative maximum-security penitentiary in Florence, Colorado. He is currently serving a 25-year sentence for communicating threats against the writers of television show South Park, as well as soliciting violent jihadists to desensitize law enforcement, and attempting to provide material support to al Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The civil division of the U.S. Attorney’s office is responsible for defending federal officials who face civil lawsuits arising out of the course and scope of their official duties.

The trial was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam E. Hanna and Senior Attorney Katherine Siereveld of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Updated May 30, 2017