Man behind anti-Islam film gets year in prison
Mark Basseley Youssef appeared in a federal courtroom last month.
November 7th, 2012
08:45 PM ET

Man behind anti-Islam film gets year in prison

[Updated at 8:45 p.m. ET] An Egyptian-American man behind the inflammatory film "Innocence of Muslims" on Wednesday was sentenced to one year in federal prison after admitting to violating the terms of his probation from a 2010 bank fraud case.

Mark Basseley Youssef also was ordered to serve four years of supervised release after his prison term. The sentencing by Judge Christina Snyder came in a Los Angeles federal court after a hearing Wednesday in which Youssef admitted using an alias, which prosecutors said violated his probation.

The amateur filmmaker from Cerritos, California, was identified in initial news accounts in September as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the name used in the bank fraud case. But the probation revocation case lists the defendant as Mark Basseley Youssef, which the filmmaker stated in court is his legal name.

In a plea deal, Youssef admitted to using a name other than his legal one; possessing a driver's license under the Nakoula name; possessing a fraudulent driver's license; and falsely telling his probation officer last month that he hadn't used the name of Sam Bacile, a name he allegedly used in making the controversial film.

While on probation, Youssef was prohibited from using any other name without consent of his probation officer.

Youssef's attorney, Steven Seiden, told reporters Wednesday that his client pleaded guilty in part because he wanted to save all parties the expense of going to trial. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss four other charges.

Youssef garnered international attention following protests against the "Innocence of Muslims" film throughout the Muslim world. The amateurish film portrays the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, buffoon, ruthless killer and child molester. Islam categorically forbids any depictions of Mohammed, and blasphemy is an incendiary taboo in the Muslim world.

The film was initially implicated in a violent demonstration in Libya that left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead on September 11.

U.S. officials initially said the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi and a nearby U.S. annex came as protesters outside the consulate rallied against the online video. But the Obama administration now says the incident was a terrorist attack, occurring 11 years to the day after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Still, the film, backed by hardcore anti-Islam groups in the United States, prompted protests in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories when an Arabic translation of the film's trailer was released online a few weeks before the anniversary of September 11.

Youssef had been on probation since being released from federal prison in June 2011 after serving 21 months in the bank fraud case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dugdale said in court Wednesday that the new sentence was appropriate, asserting Youssef's use of aliases was part of "a long-running pattern of deception," and that the film's actors and actresses "had no idea he was a recently released felon."

Cast and crew members have said they didn't know that they were shooting a film having anything to do with Islam or the Prophet Mohammed. The prophet's name was dubbed in after the film was shot, some of them have said.

Seiden said Wednesday that Youssef admits to being the film's writer, and that he might also have been a "cultural consultant" on the film.

soundoff (380 Responses)
  1. excitizen

    Guess CNN only wants to hear from those who hate – posts keep going off into the ether! Free speech? Keep playing those "Socialism" spots CNN.

    November 8, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Shuffler

    I've seen stills from the movie and then pictures of muslims doing the very exact thing. Why do they get so up tight when someone shows the truth? lol

    November 8, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. surfy6

    Just seems to me that a mass murder, a pedophile or a terrorist bomber take longer to get convicted than this clown got. His crime this time does seem to be one of political correctness and another attempt to appease a bunch of gun toting lunatics.
    Just sayin."Another case of American blind justice” (Arlo Guthrie, Alice’s Restaurant.)

    November 8, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hogan's Goat

      I met Arlo once, cool guy. "take longer to get convicted than this clown" But you see, he was already convicted for this; they just had a hearing and revoked his parole, then sent him to serve out the sentence they had probated. And you are correct that it takes a long time to get past an American's civil rights and jail him, but I'm ok with that; you and I have that same advantage. I'm thinking a week or two in prison and he won't be around to face new charges . . .

      November 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • memo2

      Great isn't it, the question is what he will do after that ?.

      November 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. CeterumCenseo

    Educate yourself, people...

    November 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. meadowmuffin

    This film was around long before what happend in Lybia. Can anyone say scapegoat? What ever happend to free speach?

    November 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • paul

      Realx his he was convicted of using an alias which he wasn't legally able to do as a condition of his parole. His right to free speech didn't come into it. I can't even think of what the charge would be for making the movie, I don't think its covered in the legal code unless maybe hate speech which I do think there are laws against.

      November 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • cybercmdr

      Everyone has free speech in America. Free speech however does not mean immunity from consequences, if that speech causes harm. Every freedom comes with responsibility.

      November 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ImIrish

    As reprehensible as this film may be (neither I nor 99% of the population has seen it), we all know that he was really put in jail for speaking against Islam.

    Free speech apparently only applies if you agree with the voicer's opinion. How hypocritical.

    November 8, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • unbelievable

      Are you kidding me how many people were killed

      If indeed that was the case being

      Over a film

      That was originally filmed by someone from their own country

      Can we say sabatoge

      I say had him over to the militants and let them acutally do with him what they will
      as he is the real culpurt from the beginning apparently

      What is he still doing in this country..anyway....

      Oh my God Free Speech....are you kidding me....

      Innocent soldiers were massacured along with others...

      November 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • DustyOnes

      No one was killed over this film

      November 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hogan's Goat

      "put in jail for speaking against Islam." Refocus, dude, this guy deliberately tricked people into making a movie that he knew would upset some violent people in areas where Americans are not liked, and set it up so it seemed as if our govt was behind it. He's in jail for a parole violation while we work out the charges. Whether you and FOX like it, there were widespread protests over it, and one of them was used as a smoke screen by pros to get our ambassador. They couldn't have done it without him. It is fitting that he is going to prison with plenty of Muslims and I hope he learns a lot about their customs and culture while they pass him around.

      November 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      Im Irish too! We let Nazi's and the KKK march in our streets two of the most hated groups around. A judge recently allowed the KKK to place flyers on peoples vehicles (let me catch them placing one on mine) We allowed the most sickening of lies to circulate unchecked aboout a sitting president. I think what this man did was rehensible however there does seem to be a double standard about who we are allowed to offend in this country. Until this film his parole violation would have likely not even ended up in court.

      November 8, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hogan's Goat

      " originally filmed by someone from their own country" He is a Coptic Christian, and a poor example of a generally admirable faith. He lied and used false names in order to bear false witness and insult people who are sincerely trying to approach God.

      November 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • ReligionOfPeace

      It is good to see that the Religion of Peace has so many happy servants to hand over its enem ies. Thank you very much "unbelievable", we shall be sure to let you live extra long after we Enslave your Family and Burn Your Civilization into Dust.

      November 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. PerfectTiming


    November 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cory

    So much for freedom of speech. The radicals are holding American's hostage. Do anything to upset them and they kill abroad, then our government and media holds accountable whomever or whatever upset these sensitive little extremist. How pathetic and weak we are becoming.

    November 8, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zod

      Jeeez! Another knee-jerk fool who couldn't even be bothered to read the first sentence of the article. I can't believe how many people here are all up in arms about "free speech" when this has NOTHING TO DO WITH FREE SPEECH OR THE CONTENT OF HIS MOVIE!

      He was on parole for committing bank fraud and he was arrested for breaking that parole.

      November 8, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Aubrie

    Did some of you guys even READ this article??? He's not going to prison for making the film. It has nothing to do with free speech being violated. He violated his probation by using aliases and was told specifically NOT TO. He had previously been incarcerated on charges of bank fraud. He was on probation and had very stiff conditions upon release. He violated multiple conditions... READ THE ARTICLE.

    November 8, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. LittleBearFN

    He deserves no jail time.. This is an injustice...

    November 8, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. LittleBearFN

    As much as I am for the current president and administration, this video was not getting any movement until it was pointed out BY the media and our administration.. The *d*ots 'over there' used it as an excuse, once it was hyped over here, to display their fake outrage... This whole matter is garbage...

    November 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. liberal disease

    he should sue Obama for falsely accusing him of starting the Bengazi terror attacks..Obama has no morals!

    November 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Toothball

    It's amazing how d.umb people have gotten. This guy was a fraudster and violated terms of his parole. THAT is why he went to jail. This is LITERALLY explained in the first 20 words of this article, yet people are going on about Obama...

    November 8, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hogan's Goat

      "This is LITERALLY explained in the first 20 words of this article, yet people are going on about Obama..." This surprises you? Welcome to America. Nothing matters to these goons except "getting Obama."

      November 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. wakeup333

    Clinton told one of the Benghazi victims' relatives that the filmmaker would be arrested.

    Wrong on so many counts: Benghazi had NOTHING to do with the video. That embassy had been attacked several times earlier by al-Qaeda. And riots in all those Muslim countries are NOT THE FAULT OF THE FILMMAKER!!

    Wake up, people! Do you want to spend the rest of your lives tiptoeing in fear of offending Muslims? To HELL with the Muslim world not tolerating criticism! We are (thank god) NOT part of the Muslim world. In this country, everyone is free to criticize religion. ANY religion. INCLUDING Islam, which needs criticizing.

    By calling for the jailing of Youssef, Obama continues his groveling appeasement of foreign Muslim masters. Stepping on the First Amendment.

    November 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. reader10

    Putting him in jail for his probation is an excuse.
    This country will pretty soon get the Sharia law.
    An other win for Islam.
    Of course every nutty things start in California.

    November 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hogan's Goat

      "This country will pretty soon get the Sharia law." Gosh, you had better leave right now. Are you fricken serious? Sharia law? What are you, ninety years old? Cheeeeeeez.

      November 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ayatollah Ben Dover

      A lot of courts in areas with a lot of Muslims will have an imam or sharia judge nearby to support them. The criminals plan to lie to a civil judge, but the imam will make them swear on the Quran and order them to comply with the civil penalties. It's got no force in law, but he can order them to serve their time quietly or pay their fine on time or whatever.

      November 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
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