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Anti-Muslim filmmaker's sentence unrelated to content, judge says

November 8, 2012 |  7:14 am

The filmmaker behind "Innocence of Muslims," the anti-Islam film that sparked rioting across the globe, was sentenced to a year in prison Wednesday but not because of the movie's content, prosecutors and the judge said.

Mark Basseley Youssef was arrested in late September after a trailer for the film, which portrays the prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and a pedophile, was uploaded onto YouTube and caused widespread outrage. Youssef was under a type of federal probation at the time, and admitted to violating terms of that probation in court Wednesday.

"I'm not going to say much about the movie because he's not here because of the content of the movie," Assistant U.S. Atty. Robert Dugdale said.

"Agreed," U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder said abruptly, interrupting the prosecutor.

Youssef, who was on supervised release after a 2010 conviction on bank and credit card fraud, admitted to four violations, including lying to his probation officer and used bogus names.

In exchange, prosecutors dropped four other counts, which included allegations Youssef lied to federal authorities in telling them his role in the film's production was limited to writing the script. Prosecutors also said they had agreed not to file new criminal charges based on Youssef's false statements to his probation officer.

Despite remarks made by the judge and prosecutors, Youssef's attorney told reporters outside court his client was being punished for exercising free speech.

"In my opinion, the government used these proceedings to chill my client's 1st Amendment rights," Steven Seiden said.

Through Seiden, Youssef, who previously changed his name from Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and who also has gone by the name Sam Bacile, asked the judge to allow him to serve the sentence in home confinement.

Snyder, citing what she called Youssef's "continuing deception," denied the request for home confinement and sentenced him to one year in prison followed by four years of supervised release.

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— Victoria Kim


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