BREAKING… UPDATE 5:45 PM: U.S. District Court Judge Suzanne Segal has ruled that the anti-Islam Innocence Of Muslims film producer known as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula will be held in the Metropolitan Detention Center after his arrest earlier today on probation violations. He will remain in the jail until a revocation hearing is scheduled. The judge said she was detaining him because “the court has a lack of trust in the defendant”. She explained that he has engaged in a lengthy pattern of deception in a variety of situations, and that he poses “a danger to the community”. Nakoula today told the court that his real name is Mark Basseley Youssef. He is being cited on 8 probation violations for which the probation office is recommending 24 months in custody.
His lawyer Steven Seiden argued it would be a danger for Nakoula to be in custody in the Los Angeles County jail because of the large Muslim population there. Asst. U.S. Attorney Robert Dugdale said: “I’ve been assured that he’d be protected in custody. It’s likely he’d be safer in custody than out of custody.”
There was little mention of Nakoula’s crude film trailer whose posting on YouTube has sparked rioting, violence, and deaths in 30 countries in the Mideast, Europe, and Asia since 9/11. The prosecutor remarked that Nakoula’s pattern of deception extended to the hiring of the film’s actors. “They had no idea who he really was and no idea that he was a felon, and he parlayed that into the making of the film.” The prosecutor also indicated that Nakoula may have financed the film under deceptive circumstances. “Granted, if you look at the film, it doesn’t look like it cost much money.”
PREVIOUS 3:15 PM, BREAKING… There is a courtroom proceeding this afternoon in the Roybal Federal Building in Downtown LA regarding what the feds are saying is the arrest of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, reputed filmmaker of the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims which has sparked rioting, violence, and deaths in 30 countries in the Mideast, Europe, and Asia since 9/11. An initial appearance in USA v. Nakoula, 09-cr-00617-CAS, has been scheduled on or after 3 PM today. Nakoula was arrested for violating terms of his probation and is set for an initial appearance in U.S. District, which sentenced him in June 2009 following a bank fraud conviction. Federal officials were looking into whether Nakoula violated his probation in that case by uploading the crude film’s 14-minute trailer onto the Internet. He and his family have been in hiding since he was voluntarily interviewed by federal authorities and has since put up for sale his Cerritos home where some of the video was shot. Nakoula served 21 months in prison on 2009 federal bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges and a $795K fine. He now could face more prison time if it is determined his involvement in the film was a violation of his probation, which barred him from either owning or using devices with access to the Web for five years without prior approval from his probation officer. Earlier, when LA County sheriffs escorted him to a police station for FBI questioning, Nakoula left his family’s Cerritos home with his head wrapped in a towel to hide his identity.
His arrest today is an apparent U.S. attempt to appease worldwide Muslims and their clerics and governments demanding for the YouTube video to be removed and its filmmaker punished. In an address on Tuesday condemning the content of the video, President Obama explained, “The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech.” This legal action is a way to preserve America’s First Amendment principles but at the same time find a roundabout but legitimate way to punish Bakoula for the crudely made film that portrays the Muhammad as a religious fraud, womanizer and pedophile.
In most federal cases alleging probation violations, the probation officer submits a confidential report to the sentencing judge who has the option of holding a probation revocation hearing. Then the judge can send the defendant to prison or impose additional terms of probation without jail time. But first the probation violation has to be proven, and Steven Seiden is Nakoula’s defense attorney in this matter. Nakoula may argue that he’s being singled out on a probation technicality for exercising his right to free speech.
At first, Innocence Of Muslims was ignored even when trailers were posted on YouTube in July. But then Egyptian television aired certain segments, which sparked protests which intensified with the deaths of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and other U.S. personnel. When news of his movie first broke, the filmmaker identified himself to media as Sam Bacile and made up lies about his identity. But the paperwork filed for the Screen Actors Guild was that of Abenob Nakoula Bassely. A public records search showed an Abanob B. Nakoula residing at the same address as Nakoula. Now the filmmaker is believed to be a Coptic Christian with many aliases. Details about the purported filmmaker have emerged over recent weeks:
– Court records show that Nakoula was once a federal informant. The Smoking Gun obtained a transcript showing attorneys for Nakoula pleaded for “cooperation points” when their client was sentenced in 2010. Lawyers argued cooperation with prosecutors in a separate case should be taken into consideration.
– Family members of Nakoula have left their Cerritos home to join him in hiding. Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies escorted members of Nakoula’s family out of the house early Monday and into sheriff’s vehicles so they could rejoin Nakoula at an undisclosed location.
– News reports claim a second filmmaker, Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih, president of Media for Christ, is an associate of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
– Film LA released the permit (read it here) for the film, which lists Media for Christ as the production company. Names and contact information for the producer, director and other crew members were redacted. The permit covers a one-day shoot at Blue Cloud Ranch in Santa Clarita for the film Desert Warriors, which has since become known as Innocence Of Muslims.
– Nakoula was connected to the persona of Sam Bacile, a federal law enforcement source told the AP. A man calling himself Sam Bacile initially claimed to be the writer and director of the film, but doubts surfaced regarding his identity. He has no credits on any movie industry database and SAG-AFTRA tells Deadline they have no information about the film; the DGA confirms they have no ‘Sam Bacile’ on record. It appears that Bacile is one of many aliases Nakoula used, the AP noted.
– The YouTube profile ‘Sam Bacile’ was used to post clips of the film on July 1 and comments as recently as Tuesday last week. It lists the age of the account holder at 74. Nakoula is believed to be 55.
– Another man, Steve Klein, told CNN he worked with Bacile on the movie vetting the script. Klein is an insurance agent and self-described militant Christian activist who resides in Hemet, CA.
– There are accounts of the film being screened in June under the name Innocence Of Bin Laden. According to Klein, Nakoula wanted to give it a title that would draw in and then trick “hardcore Muslims” into watching a movie that slammed Islam. But according to Klein, no tickets were sold and Nakoula was “crushed,” the AP said. Klein told The Times “felt great” about consulting on the film.
– CNN received a statement from the 80 or so people in front of and behind the cameras denouncing the film they say they worked on without knowing it was propaganda.