|'Innocence of Muslims' Filmmaker Ordered Back to Prison|
|By RANDY KREIDER (@RandyKreider)||Nov 8, 2012, 2:30 PM|
The California filmmaker who made "Innocence of Muslims," the anti-Muslim movie that set off violent protests worldwide, was sent to prison for a year Wednesday for violating the terms of his probation from a prior conviction.
Mark Basseley Youssef, AKA Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, AKA Sam Bacile, admitted that he had lied to his probation officer and used fake names. Prosecutors dropped other counts, which included the accusation that the filmmaker had lied to authorities about the scope of his role in making the incendiary film.
Records obtained by ABC News show Youssef, now 55, was convicted of intent to manufacture methamphetamine in the 1990s.
In 2010, he pleaded no contest to bank fraud. Sentenced to 21 months in prison and five years on probation , Nakoula was moved from the federal correctional complex in Lompoc, California to a halfway house in 2010, according to the website The Smoking Gun. He later told authorities he wrote the script for "Innocence of Muslims" in prison.
He was released from federal custody in June 2011 and production on the film began just two months later at a soundstage in Southern California.
Actors in the film say that they were told the film was called "Desert Warrior," and say that the script contained no references to Mohammed. Actress Cindy Lee Garcia told ABC News, "I never heard Mohammed, I never said Mohammed." Specific references to Mohammed and Islam were apparently added via overdubbing. On set, Youssef used the pseudonym Sam Bacile. Under the terms of Youssef's federal probation, he was barred him from accessing the internet without prior approval and from using any name other than his legal name.
"Innocence of Muslims" has been blamed for violent protests across the Middle East, including in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans died, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, when militants attacked U.S. diplomatic facilities there on Sept. 11. In late September, Youssef, who was using the name Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, was ordered detained without bail by a federal judge for allegedly violating the terms of his probation. The judge cited a "lengthy pattern of deception."
Youssef admitted to authorities that he wrote and produced the film and sought help from law enforcement in dealing with death threats he had received since the film's release, saying he was "scared to death" about the safety of himself and his family, authorities told ABC News.
Youssef had originally told reporters he was an "Israeli Jew" and that the film had cost about $5,000,000, which came from wealthy Jewish friends.
But Youssef, who is actually an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian, later told authorities that he and his son, Abanob Basseley, 21, were responsible for producing the movie. He reportedly said the film cost between $50,000 and $60,000 and was shot in a little over 12 days. Authorities say he claimed the money for the movie came from his wife's family in Egypt.
Officials stressed during court proceedings Wednesday that the movie's contents and impact had no bearing on Youssef's case. After a prosecutor said "he's not here because of the content of the movie," Judge Christian Snyder said, "agreed."
Youssef's attorney, however, told the Los Angeles Times that Youssef was paying a price for making the controversial film.
"In my opinion, the government used these proceedings to chill my client's First Amendment rights," said Steven Seiden.
Snyder sentenced Youssef to a year in prison, rejecting his request that he serve his term under house arrest. Prosecutors have agreed not to pursue further charges against Youssef for allegedly lying to his probation officer.