Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Calif. man behind anti-Muslim film had many aliases

LOS ANGELES — The man who outraged Muslims across the Middle East with an anti-Islam film made in America is behind bars. But he's jailed for lying about his identity, not because of the video's content.

Documents show Mark Basseley Youssef, 55, legally changed his name from Nakoula Basseley Nakoula in 2002, but never told federal authorities, who are using that as part of the probation violation case against him.

Youssef was ordered jailed without bail Thursday until a hearing is held to determine if he violated terms of his supervised release on a 2010 bank fraud conviction.

Prosecutors allege he used multiple aliases and lied to his probation officers about his real name.

Youssef, an Egyptian-born Christian who's now a U.S. citizen, sought to obtain a passport in his new name but still had a California driver's license as Nakoula, assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dugdale said Friday. Youssef used a third name, Sam Bacile, in association with the 14-minute trailer for the movie Innocence of Muslims that was posted on YouTube. It portrays the prophet Mohammed as a religious fraud, womanizer and pedophile.

Angry protests sparked by the film broke out Sept. 11 in Egypt and Libya and violence related to the film has spread, killing dozens. Enraged Muslims demanded punishment for Youssef.

Youssef went into hiding on Sept. 15 and his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos was put up for sale. He was arrested Thursday and appeared that afternoon for a proceeding in a courtroom that was opened only to lawyers and his family. A feed was provided to the media in a different building.

Afterward, Youssef was whisked away to a federal detention center in Los Angeles where he'll stay until the hearing.

The case isn't about Youssef's First Amendment right to make a controversial film. Rather, Dugdale said, it's about his failure to live up to his obligation to be truthful with federal authorities.

"The fact that he wasn't using his true name with probation, that's where the problem is," said Dugdale, who noted federal authorities now will refer to Nakoula as Youssef.

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