Pa. man gets 8 1/2 years in terrorism promotion case, attack on FBI agents who questioned him

PITTSBURGH — A western Pennsylvania man whom authorities called a “homegrown, radical extremist” was sentenced Tuesday to 8 ½ years in prison for helping lead an Internet forum that promoted terrorist attacks against American military and civilian targets.

The sentence for Emerson Begolly, 24, formerly of Redbank Township, also includes time for having a concealed gun and biting an FBI agent when he was arrested in 2011.

Begolly apologized for his posts and disavowed his stated beliefs, telling the judge his comments were “completely reckless. No good would have come from making such comments.”

“All I want to do is pursue a path of peace and righteousness,” Begolly continued. “I feel I’ve learned my lesson and I feel I don’t want to make jail a revolving door for myself.”

But Assistant U.S Attorney Jimmy Kitchen said Begolly’s willingness to kill or be killed was summed up in a post: “If I have the choice between 12 jurors and six pallbearers, I’ll choose the latter any day.”

And when agents tried to arrest him as he sat in his mother’s car in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant, Begolly bit them and reached for a 9mm pistol hidden in a military field jacket.

All parties agree Begolly is a socially inept, outcast who has struggled with autism and mental health issues since he was a young child. He can’t drive a car, never learned to ride a bike and never had a girlfriend.

Begolly’s sentence was far less than the 15-year term he agreed to when he pleaded guilty nearly two years ago, and which prosecutors still sought in a sentencing memorandum filed last week. He will receive credit for 30 months he’s spent in jail since his arrest, and so will be free in about six years.