Calif. man behind anti-Muslim film gets prison

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LOS ANGELES -- A federal judge Wednesday sentenced the man behind "Innocence of Muslims," the anti-Islam YouTube video that ignited bloody protests in the Muslim world, to one year in prison for a parole violation.

The man, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula -- also known as Mark Basseley Youssef, a name he legally adopted in 2002 -- appeared in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and pleaded guilty to four charges of violating a probation sentence imposed on him in 2010 after a bank fraud conviction. Each of his guilty pleas, worked out with prosecutors in advance, was related to his maintenance of the two identities.

In turn, the government agreed to drop four more probation violation charges, all of which pertained to Mr. Nakoula's work on the "Innocence of Muslims" video. Prosecutors had maintained that Mr. Nakoula lied to police about the extent of his involvement in the anti-Muslim film project.

In accordance with the sentencing request by Robert Dugdale, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, Judge Christina A. Snyder ruled that Mr. Nakoula would serve one year in prison followed by four years' probation. She rejected a request from Mr. Nakoula's lawyer, Steve Seiden, for home confinement in lieu of prison, instead telling Mr. Nakoula that he had already "struck a deal far more favorable than he might have otherwise suffered."

Although Mr. Dugdale did not pursue the probation violation charges directly related to "Innocence of Muslims," he spoke about Mr. Nakoula's film project -- and the deceitful manner in which he carried it out -- as part of his sentencing argument.

Mr. Dugdale said Mr. Nakoula used the alias Sam Bacile, among others, to make the movie and tricked the cast into thinking that they were making a sword-and-sandal epic about a murderous tribal leader named George. Later, using crude dubbing techniques, Mr. Nakoula secretly turned that character into the Prophet Muhammad, according to Mr. Dugdale. "That's a substantial fraud," he said.

It was the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad as a bloodthirsty thug in the YouTube footage that sparked violence from Egypt to Pakistan in September. Cast members, at least one of whom is now suing Mr. Nakoula, have received death threats and are having trouble finding work as a result of his dubbing, Mr. Dugdale noted. "His deception actually caused real harm to people," he said.

Mr. Nakoula was arrested in September and ordered held without bond. Out of concern for his safety, he has been kept in protective custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles. A string of Muslim religious leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan have offered bounties to whomever kills him.

nation


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