'Innocence of Muslims' filmmaker sentenced to 1 year in prison

Associated Press | Reuters

Mark Basseley Youssef was sentenced to a year in prison Wednesday for parole violations. Youssef, also known as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, pleaded guilty to four of the eight violations alleged by prosecutors, "including obtaining a fraudulent California driver's license," the Associated Press' Greg Risling and Linda Deutsch report.

Authorities say Youssef was the person behind "The Innocence of Muslims," a film denigrating Islam. He was charged with parole violations in September. Among the conditions of his supervised release were that he wouldn't use the Internet or computers without his parole officer's permission. "If the video hadn't gone viral, and caused the Arabic world to blow up, who would care if this guy is using YouTube?" former federal prosecutor Mark Werksman told the AP at the time.

But Youssef went to prison because he "used several false names in violation of his probation order and obtained a driver's license under a false name," Risling and Deutsch report.

Federal authorities have said they believe Youssef is responsible for the film, but they haven't said whether he was the person who posted it online. He also wasn't supposed to use any name other than his true legal name without the prior written approval of his probation officer.

At least three names have been associated with Youssef since the film trailer surfaced – Sam Bacile, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and Youssef. Bacile was the name attached to the YouTube account that posted the video.

Youssef acknowledges only a secondary role in making "The Innocence of Muslims," Risling and Deutsch write. His attorney Steven Seiden "said his client admits to being the film's scriptwriter but had no other involvement except what he described as being a 'cultural adviser.' " Reuters' Brandon Lowrey reports Seiden "told reporters after Wednesday's hearing that the government was using its probation case to punish Youssef for making the film, thus chilling his client's constitutional rights to freedom of expression."

"This hearing had everything to do with the movie," he said.

[Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert] Dugdale said in court that Youssef was not being prosecuted for the content of his film but because "the way he made this movie, he did defraud people," in part by operating under an assumed identity.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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