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A Pennsylvania man who was indicted Thursday for allegedly using the Internet to encourage Islamic fundamentalists to launch terror attacks against U.S. targets has a long history of extremism and joined a neo-Nazi group in 2003.
Emerson Begolly, 22, of New Bethlehem, Pa., was about 14 when he first contacted the National Socialist Movement (NSM), America’s largest neo-Nazi group, Hatewatch has learned.
Begolly was arrested on January 4 after he bit two FBI agents who approached him to serve search warrants as he sat alone in the front seat of a car parked at a Burger King. When the agents opened the door and identified themselves, he screamed and reached for his pocket, then bit the agents’ hands, drawing blood. He was found to have a 9 mm Makarov handgun with the safety off and two fully loaded magazines in his pocket.
Bloggers quickly dubbed him the “Nazi Jihadist” after finding on his MySpace page childhood photos of Begolly dressed in Nazi regalia, reportedly taken by his father, who introduced him to Nazi beliefs at the age of 11.
The boy apparently took his father’s racist ideology to heart. He reached out to NSM head Jeff Schoep and was appointed head of the Pennsylvania division of the NSM’s youth division, the Viking Youth Corps, in 2003.
Hatewatch has obtained a series of messages Begolly wrote to fellow NSM members in November and December of that year, chronicling his own radicalization.
Writing as “waffen999,” the young Begolly didn’t shy from adult topics, denouncing Wal-Mart for destroying family-owned businesses; excoriating the children’s TV network Nickelodeon for its pro-diversity message; and condemning M-TV (“which I and my father call ‘N-TV’ for abvious (sic) reasons”) for objectifying women and contaminating young minds.
His most revealing message is a lengthy Nov. 12, 2003, screed titled “My Story, My Life.” Full of rage and frustration, this mini-autobiography is full of disturbing clues about the 14-year-old Begolly. “I am not quite sure where to begin my story, and I am wondering if it has a beginning at all,” he started. “I have always agreed with the National Socialist philosophy, even before I knew there was one!”
He traced the beginnings of his racism back to the 5th grade, when he felt harassed by black, Latino and mixed-race students. “When I told an adult, the (sic) never did anything.”
Junior high school was worse, Begolly wrote. He was suspended after a white “reliefer” (slang for a person who receives welfare) “assaulted” him on the school bus, and he began taking a van for “special needs” kids instead. The same year, he was labeled a “threat” and put in counseling after saying that his school was stupid and that school shootings were justified. He kept getting into trouble, he wrote, until “I discovered my Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler. I read about National Socialism in a book and it seemed so great! It was the answer to all my problems. At school I said that Hitler was a great leader, but the students branded me a fool. But, I stuck to my beliefs, the Truth.”
“They say I am very smart,” the young neo-Nazi continued. “I skipped 7th Grade and went straight to 8th Grade. It was hell, too.”
Begolly wrote that he made a comment – he does not say what – that caused alarm, and the principal brought in an “aide” to observe him. He was removed from sex education class “because all that they talked about was stupid stuff that was offensive.” In February of that year, he was referred to a judge “becuase (sic) I said that slavery shouldn’t have ended.” The “charges,” he wrote, were dropped.
He graduated junior high with what he claimed were top grades and honors, but was only a few weeks into high school when “I put down the school system for being ‘too jewish and pro-mixing.’
“They gave me detention. I protested saying that I had the right to say that because it was true and said I can understand what drives kids to bring guns to school. That upset the school.”
Begolly was given the option of going to court or leaving the school. “So I quit school at age 13 and began home-schooling.” Soon after that, he “discovered the NSM. I e-mailed [C]ommander Schoep,” he wrote, “He said I would be a good member. So I joined.”
Last week’s indictment alleges that, as moderator on a popular English-language forum for Islamic extremists, Begolly solicited members to attack U.S. targets such as synagogues, day care centers, train lines, and police stations. It also charges that in late December, he posted links to a 101-page document containing information on how to manufacture explosives.
The prosecution’s evidence includes several online conversations Begolly had in late 2010 with Islamic fundamentalists. Amid the discussion of terrorist strategy, tactics and targets, glimpses of the teenager who was kicked out of school and joined the Viking Youth Corps are still visible.
“[H]ave u ever considered shooting up ur schooling and taking revenge on those who wronged u?” he asked a forum member who was also deeply unhappy at his school. “bro when i wake up in the morning the first thing i think about is killing.”
The messages contain other clues about Begolly’s family environment and state of mind. He claimed his father beat him and his step-mother, and he told one chat partner that his father “presumably” belonged to a militia. In a raid of Begolly’s home, police seized an arsenal of weapons, including three AK-47s, four rifles with bayonets, a double-barreled shotgun and a hand grenade. Begolly obsessed about his own AK-47 – which, he wrote repeatedly, he kept loaded and nearby at all times.
Begolly reportedly has Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder whose symptoms include extreme difficulty with social interactions and obsessive or repetitive behaviors and interests.
He faces separate federal charges in Pennsylvania for assaulting the FBI officers in January.