Muslims across the Middle East outraged by an anti-Islam film made in America wanted swift punishment for the man behind the movie, and now Mark Basseley Youssef is behind bars. But he’s jailed for lying about his identity, not because of the video’s content.
Court documents show Youssef, 55, legally changed his name from Nakoula Basseley Nakoula in 2002, but never told federal authorities, who now 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 trailer for the movie “Innocence of Muslims” that was posted on YouTube. It portrays Mohammad as a religious fraud, womanizer and pedophile.
Protests sparked by the film broke out September 11 in Egypt and Libya and violence related to the film has spread, killing dozens. Enraged Muslims demanded punishment for Youssef, and a Pakistani cabinet minister has offered a $100,000 bounty to anyone who kills him.
Youssef went into hiding on September 15 and his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos was put up for sale. He was arrested Thursday and appeared for a proceeding in a courtroom that was opened only to lawyers and his family.
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 constitutional 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.
Youssef’s attorney, Steven Seiden, sought in court Thursday to have the hearing closed and his client released on $10,000 bail. He argued Youssef has checked in with his probation officer frequently and made no attempts to leave Southern California.
A hearing will be scheduled to determine if Youssef violated his probation. Prosecutors also said he could face new charges, though they provided no details other than to say they could carry a two-year prison sentence.
After his 2010 conviction, Youssef was sentenced to 21 months in prison and was barred from using computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer, though prosecutors said none of the violations involved the Internet. He also wasn’t supposed to use any name other than his true legal name without the prior written approval of his probation officer.
Orange County Superior Court documents show Nakoula was granted a name change petition in 2002 and legally became Mark Basseley Youssef. As reason for the change, he said: “Nakoula is a girl’s name and it cause me troubles.”
Authorities said Youssef used more than a dozen aliases, opened about 60 bank accounts and had more than 600 credit and debit cards to conduct the check fraud.