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Feds: Evidence indicates suspect would-be suicide bomber
[January 13, 2011]

Feds: Evidence indicates suspect would-be suicide bomber

Jan 13, 2011 (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Accused of biting two FBI agents, and now painted by prosecutors as a would-be suicide bomber, 21-year-old Emerson W. Begolly will remain in jail pending trial, U.S. District Judge Maurice B. Cohill decided today.

The detention hearing that led to that decision followed a similar hearing last week, after which U.S. District Magistrate Judge Ervin S. Swearingen ruled that Mr. Begolly could be released to a halfway house. Both the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Federal Public Defender's Office appealed, with the former saying he should stay in jail and the latter saying he should return to his father's Mayport home. He has remained jailed pending those appeals.

PG VIDEO: RAW VIDEO -- FBI EVIDENCE Today prosecutors presented new evidence, including FBI testimony regarding the placement of weapons in Mr. Begolly's bedroom at his father's house, and online communications linked to him through his personal laptop.

On Jan. 4, agents searched the house in Mayport, in Armstrong County, with a warrant that is still sealed and emanated from another federal district.

Mr. Begolly's bedroom contained 14 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and a fake hand grenade, said FBI Special Agent Thomas W. Ferguson III. Three of the firearms, including one found under his pillow, were AK-47-type rifles, he said. Agents also found a helmet and gas mask there, and rifle rounds in the bedroom he used at the Natrona Heights home of his mother, who is divorced from his father.

Mr. Ferguson attributed to Mr. Begolly online communications from a person using the screen name Abu Nancy. Some appeared on what he called "a radical jihadi Web site" and others were from online chats, all from last year, the agent said.

One communication detailed how an old Buick could be turned into a car bomb using gasoline and tanks -- apparently of propane -- that could be ignited with a gunshot.

Another talked of "being a suicide martyr on your school," or taking school kids as hostages and demanding the freedom of Muslim prisoners.

"Clearly, not just military, but also civilian targets can be used," Mr. Ferguson read from a transcript of the communications. "How can [Western forces] destroy our weddings and not expect to pay?" "Why terrorize the average American?" Mr. Ferguson read. "Because Allah commands us to terrorize them" so that they know the "horrors of war . . . instead of sitting at home stuffing their fat face." Other online communications dealt with how to handle an arrest attempt. "I would make Waco look like a tea party," one posting read by Mr. Ferguson claimed, and another said that anyone faced with arrest should hurt the agent in any way possible, in an effort to become a martyr.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song showed videos that she said were on the laptop in which a person Mr. Ferguson identified as Mr. Begolly fired a rifle at a pumpkin, or at unidentified targets. The voice of Shawn Begolly, the defendant's father, can be heard on some of the videos, including one in which the voice said, "Now you wounded him now" in apparent reference to a direct hit on the pumpkin.

"Does his murderous intention with the means of carrying it out make him a danger?" asked Ms. Song. "He was preparing, and he was getting closer and closer to bringing his words and aspirations to fruition." Marketa Sims, a public defender representing Mr. Begolly, argued that there was no proof that the online communications were really authored by Mr. Begolly. She said he had no history of violence until FBI agents "snuck up on" him as he sat in his mother's car in a Burger King parking lot on Jan. 4.

What the government characterized as jihadi training, including firing a rifle at pumpkins, was "common tomfoolery up there," Ms. Sims said.

She said he is being held in an Allegheny County Jail psychiatric ward and doesn't even have a bed in his cell. "The fact that he says things on the Internet that some people don't agree with doesn't mean you put him in a nuthouse," she said.

Judge Cohill said that there was enough evidence against Mr. Begolly, and enough concern with his "mental condition," to hold him in jail.

Shawn Begolly had no comment after the hearing.

Rich Lord: [email protected] or 412-263-1542 To see more of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2011, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit

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