Man Behind Anti-Islam Film Gets Year In Prison

Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 9:42am

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- An Egyptian-American man behind the inflammatory film "Innocence of Muslims" on Wednesday was sentenced to one year in federal prison after admitting to violating the terms of his probation from a 2010 bank fraud case.

Mark Basseley Youssef also was ordered to serve four years of supervised release after his prison term. The sentencing by Judge Christina Snyder came in a Los Angeles federal court after a hearing Wednesday in which Youssef admitted using an alias, which prosecutors said violated his probation.

The amateur filmmaker from Cerritos, California, was identified in initial news accounts in September as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the name used in the bank fraud case. But the probation revocation case lists the defendant as Mark Basseley Youssef, which the filmmaker stated in court is his legal name.

In a plea deal, Youssef admitted to using a name other than his legal one; possessing a driver's license under the Nakoula name; possessing a fraudulent driver's license; and falsely telling his probation officer last month that he hadn't used the name of Sam Bacile, a name he allegedly used in making the controversial film.

While on probation, Youssef was prohibited from using any other name without consent of his probation officer.

Youssef's attorney, Steven Seiden, told reporters Wednesday that his client pleaded guilty in part because he wanted to save all parties the expense of going to trial. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss four other charges.

Youssef garnered international attention following protests against the "Innocence of Muslims" film throughout the Muslim world. The amateurish film portrays the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, buffoon, ruthless killer and child molester. Islam categorically forbids any depictions of Mohammed, and blasphemy is an incendiary taboo in the Muslim world.

The film was initially implicated in a violent demonstration in Libya that left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead on September 11.

U.S. officials initially said the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi and a nearby U.S. annex came as protesters outside the consulate rallied against the online video. But the Obama administration now says the incident was a terrorist attack, occurring 11 years to the day after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Still, the film, backed by hardcore anti-Islam groups in the United States, prompted protests in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories when an Arabic translation of the film's trailer was released online a few weeks before the anniversary of September 11.

Youssef had been on probation since being released from federal prison in June 2011 after serving 21 months in the bank fraud case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dugdale said in court Wednesday that the new sentence was appropriate, asserting Youssef's use of aliases was part of "a long-running pattern of deception," and that the film's actors and actresses "had no idea he was a recently released felon."

Cast and crew members have said they didn't know that they were shooting a film having anything to do with Islam or the Prophet Mohammed. The prophet's name was dubbed in after the film was shot, some of them have said.

Seiden said Wednesday that Youssef admits to being the film's writer, and that he might also have been a "cultural consultant" on the film.

-- CNN's Michael Martinez, Stan Wilson and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

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