The government doesn’t want Emerson Begolly, the 21-year-old former Penn State student who allegedly bit two FBI agents in the parking lot of a Burger King when they tried to question him about apparent pro-jihad messages he posted online, released.
Especially not to his father, federal prosecutors argued, who dressed him up as a Nazi as a kid, allowed him to roam around his farm with an AK-47 and said Begolly’s reported authorship of anti-Semitic poems meant he was “just going through a phase.”
Nor should he be sent to a halfway house called the Renewal Center in Pennsylvania from which Begolly could escape at any time, the prosecution argued in its appeal of a judge’s decision to release Begolly.
Begolly had an AK-47 that he purchased at Dunham’s Sporting Goods in Natrona Heights, Penn., the government said. That makes him a danger to the community, and the father’s reason for him having that weapon wasn’t cutting it for the feds.
“By way of explanation, defendant’s father offered that, on occasion, defendant would encounter stray animals on his father’s 100 acre farm, necessitating the need for his AK-47,” U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton and Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret E. Picking wrote on behalf of the government. “We respectfully submit that one does not use an AK-47 assault rifle to fend off a stray animal.”
On top of the evidence presented at trial “the government is prepared to offer additional evidence of the defendant’s danger to the community” that wasn’t available at his detention hearing, the federal prosecutors tell an appeal court.
So far, the federal government’s underlying case hasn’t been revealed, but it’s clear the FBI agents were questioning Begolly about the postings that several groups that track Islamic extremists online say he wrote under the name Alshashanni.
Pickling, the federal prosecutor, said in court last week that she’d “reviewed a number of public source information, I guess we would call them Internet posts, in which people describe Alshashedi as the Defendant, Emerson Begolly.” She could only base what she said in court on publicly available information.
Here’s a song praising a suicide bomber that one terrorism monitoring website says Begolly posted:
But the story gets even more complex. According to defense testimony at the hearing, one of the FBI agents who says he was bitten, Bradley W. Orsini, reportedly had an unspecified prior relationship with Begolly’s mother — who Begolly’s federal defender claims is an alcoholic with mental health issues of her own. And, back in Sept. 2001, Orsini was disciplined with a demotion and a 30-day suspension without pay because the FBI said he had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate; made improper vulgar and sexual comments; threatened a subordinate with violence and improperly documented the seizure of a weapon and ammunition from a search, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said.
Additional reporting by Alex Sciuto.