Innocence of Muslims – The filmmaker behind the anti-Islamic video that sparked violent outrage against the United States throughout the Muslim world was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of violating the terms of his probation.
Magistrate Judge Suzanne H. Segal ordered Nakoula Basseley Nakoula detained, citing a “lengthy pattern of deception” by the man, adding that he poses “some danger to the community.” Nakoula faces up to three years in jail.
The hearing occurred amid high security, with the public allowed to watch only through a video feed in a separate courthouse blocks away. Nakoula and his family had been in hiding prior to his arrest after receiving threats to his safety, his attorney said.
Nakoula, who was on supervised release from a 2010 conviction for bank fraud, faces eight charges of probation violation, including making false statements to authorities about his role in the film “Innocence of Muslims.”
When probation officials questioned him about the video, Nakoula allegedly claimed his role was limited to writing the script, and he denied ever using the same “Sam Bacile” in connection with the film, according to Assistant U.S. Atty. Robert Dugdale.
Dugdale said there is evidence Nakoula’s role in making “Innocence of Muslims” was “much more expansive” than penning the script. Prosecutors said Nakoula could face new criminal charges for lying to federal officials.
A 14-minute trailer for the film uploaded on YouTube has outraged Muslims around the world and has become the centerpiece of a debate over the clash between free speech and hate speech. Arab leaders called on the U.S. to ban anti-Islam insults, while President Obama hasdefended 1st Amendment protections for such speech even as he criticized the video as crude and offensive. The film depicts the prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and child molester.
At Thursday’s hearing, Segal asked the man who went into hiding after the uproar over his film if his true name was Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. He said he had legally changed his name to Mark Basseley Youssef in 2002.
Nakoula’s attorney, Steven Seiden, asked that his client be released on $10,000 bond, saying he was not a flight risk. He also said his client would be in danger at the downtown Metropolitan Detention Center because of what he said was a large Muslim population at the lockup.
Prosecutors told Segal they’ve been assured the Metropolitan Detention Center has protocols to house “inmates of notoriety” and contended that Nakoula would possibly be safer in custody. They said Nakoula was a man who “simply cannot be trusted” and whose deceptions had caused “real harm.” Because of his use of aliases, he was able to deceive people into working on the film without realizing they were dealing with a convicted felon, Dugdale told the judge.
He said Nakoula had applied for a passport under one name, obtained a driver’s license under another and used a third name — which he spelled various ways — while working on the film.
Segal said Nakoula had failed to prove he wasn’t a flight risk. Probation officials have recommended a 24-month term for Nakoula, prosecutors said in court. He faces a maximum of three years in prison if found to have violated his parole.
According to court records, Nakoula operated under an array of aliases.
In June 2010, he was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison after being convicted on four counts, including bank fraud and identity theft. He was also ordered to pay $794,700.57 in restitution. Nakoula was released in June 2011, according to federal records.