Dinesh D’Souza, co-director and star of the second-most-successful political documentary in American box office history, faced a federal judge in New York today on charges of campaign finance fraud. The 2016: Obama’s America filmmaker pleaded not guilty to District Judge Richard Berman at a noon ET hearing in Manhattan. He was released on $500,000 bail as the case was pushed back to March 4. D’Souza’s 2016 has made more than $33 million since it was first released in July 2012. In an indictment handed down Thursday, the conservative author and former aide to President Reagan faces a maximum of two years in prison for allegedly donating more than $20,000 to the unsuccessful 2012 GOP Senate campaign of longtime friend Wendy Long through other people. He also faces a max of five years behind bars for causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission in connection with those contributions,” according the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
D’Souza’s film about the supposed anti-colonial roots of President Obama‘s political agenda is the fourth-most-successful docu of the last 30 years behind 2011’s Justin Bieber: Never Say Never ($73.1M), 2005’s March Of The Penguins ($77.4M) and the 2004 Michael Moore pic Fahrenheit 9/11 ($119.19M). D’Souza’s producer Gerald Molen says the indictment is politically motivated but will not stop the upcoming sequel to 2016. “Artists should never have to live in fear that their leaders will go out of their way to look for ways to intimidate, coerce or even worse, arrest them because of the works they create. This sends a chilling message to all filmmakers,” he told me today. “And in the case of Dinesh D’Souza and his team and the film America, we will not be intimidated or coerced. The America movie will be released on July 4th as planned.”
Based on D’Souza’s 2010 bestseller The Roots Of Obama’s Rage, 2016 first opened in just one theater in Houston on July 13, 2012. It then quickly expanded to more than 1,00o theaters and then to more than 2,000 locations by late summer of that Presidential election year. Attacked by the White House during the campaign, the docu about what an Obama second term could look like was directed by D’Souza and John Sullivan.