Los Angeles News

Anti-Muslim filmmaker denies violating probation

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Cerritos man behind the infamous anti-Muslim film appeared in court Wednesday to answer to charges that he violated his probation.

Mark Basseley Youssef denied he violated his probation for a 2010 bank fraud conviction. U.S District Judge Christina Snyder said an evidentiary hearing will be held on Nov. 9 for Youssef.

If prosecutors can prove that Youssef had eight probation violations, he could face up to two years in prison. Six of the charges accuse the ex-convict of using aliases as he did when was convicted of bank fraud in 2010. Two additional charges allege that he had a role in making the anti-Muslim film beyond just writing it.

Youssef has been under federal custody and held without bail since last month, because the judge in this case felt that he may be a flight risk. The 55-year-old was in hiding ever since a 14-minute trailer of his film, "Innocence of Muslims," was posted on YouTube. Angry protests stoked by the film broke out in Egypt and Libya and violence related to the film has spread, killing dozens. The film portrays Muhammad as a religious fraud, womanizer and pedophile.

Authorities said Youssef, an Egyptian-born Christian who's now a U.S. citizen, used more than a dozen aliases and opened 60 bank accounts and had more than 600 credit and debit cards to conduct a check fraud scheme.

Youssef was sentenced to 21 months in prison. He was barred from using computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer. Federal prosecutors say Youssef has violated his probation, and that he used three different aliases over the past several weeks - including the name "Sam Bacile," which is associated with the controversial film.

Prosecutors now say Youssef left a paper trail using various names. Cast members for the film say that Youssef used the name Sam Bassil. They said he ran the show and signed the checks. One actor said he witnessed Youssef sign a check under a different name, Abanob B. Nakoula.

As Youssef awaits his next hearing in federal detention, his defense attorney, Steven Seiden, pointed to a federal investigation into the anti-American violence that was thought to be stirred by the film.

"My client was not cause of the violence in the Middle East, clearly it was preplanned. And that was just an excuse and a trigger point to have more violence," Seiden said.

If Youssef lands behind bars, it may be the safest place for him, seeing that there is a $300,000 bounty on his head by an Afghani religious leader.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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