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'Innocence of Muslims' filmmaker gets a year in prison

November 7, 2012 |  3:00 pm

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies take Nakoula Basseley Nakoula into custody in Sept. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced the filmmaker behind "Innocence of Muslims,” the anti-Islam film that sparked rioting across the globe, to a year behind bars after the man admitted to violating the terms of his release from an earlier conviction.

Mark Basseley Youssef admitted to four violations, including lying to his probation officer and using bogus names. In exchange, prosecutors dropped four other counts, including allegations that Youssef lied in saying that his role in the film's production was limited to writing the script. Youssef was under a type of federal probation -- known as supervised release -- after being convicted in 2010 of bank and credit-card fraud, in which he was accused of causing $800,000 in losses.

Through an attorney, Youssef, who previously changed his name from Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and  who also has gone by the name Sam Basile, asked that he be allowed to serve the sentence in home confinement.

TIMELINE: 'Innocence of Muslims' unrest

Assistant U.S. Atty. Robert Dugdale objected, saying the man's record of fraud and deception made the violations particularly serious.

"This is not a defendant that you want out there using multiple names," he said, noting Youssef had a passport under one name and a driver's license under another, and worked on the film under a third identity.

He said actors and actresses who answered his casting calls were victimized when he dubbed the film with controversial dialogue that wasn't in the script. Members of the cast contacted the probation office, saying their careers were ruined and that they were receiving death threats, Dugdale said.

Steven Seiden, Youssef's attorney, said it was in the right of any filmmaker to alter the film and that cast members had signed releases.

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

Outside court, Seiden said his client was being punished for his speech.

"In my opinion, the government used these proceedings to chill my client's first amendment rights," he told reporters. He said Youssef wrote the film's script and acted as a "cultural consultant," but did not own the film.


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Photo: Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies take Mark Basseley Youssef into custody in September. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times