Los Angeles News
Anti-Muslim filmmaker gets year in prison for probation violations
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Mark Basseley Youssef has been sentenced to a year in prison for probation violations.
Youssef is associated with an anti-Muslim film that is blamed in part for stoking unrest in the Middle East.
Youssef appeared in court in a white prison uniform with his hands shackled. There was limited access to the hearing. Associated Press Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch was the only reporter allowed inside.
"The courtroom was surrounded by marshals in fatigues and arms that were showing, guns that were showing, and they escorted him and out of the courtroom because there has been a price put on his life in Pakistan," said Deutsch.
Youssef reportedly admitted to four of eight allegations of probation violations. He was then sentenced by a U.S. District Court judge.
"This hearing had everything to do with the movie, but nothing to do with the movie in court. Draw your own conclusions," said Youssef's defense attorney, Steve Seiden, Wednesday.
Youssef served most of a 21-month prison term in a bank fraud case. He was prohibited from online or computer activity for five years as one of the terms of his probation.
Federal authorities wanted Youssef to serve two years for the violations.
Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder found Youssef in violation of the terms of his supervised release. Youssef worked out a deal with the federal prosecutors, admitting to some allegations in the case and the government dismissing others. He was sentenced to a year in federal prison plus four years of supervised release.
Youssef's attorney asked the judge to sentenced him to house arrest, since he has been having hard time seeing his children over the past five weeks, but judge agreed with prosecution that, although she appreciated that Youssef accepted responsibility for his actions, he kept engaging in continuous conduct of deception, even when placed under oath, and was not being truthful.
Youssef had an Arabic translator in court Wednesday. In a twist, Judge Snyder acknowledged that Youssef had given her a long letter written in Arabic, but that she didn't have time to get it translated. She asked Youssef if he wanted to delay Wednesday's hearing until she had time to do so. He said no. At the end of the hearing, she returned the letter to Youssef.
None of the violations had to do with the content of "Innocence of Muslims," a film that depicts Mohammad as a religious fraud, pedophile and a womanizer. The movie sparked violence in Libya and other parts of the Middle East, killing dozens.
"My client made the admissions to being the writer of the script of 'The Innocence of Muslims.' That's all we'll say about the film today," said Seiden Wednesday.
Youssef has been under federal custody and held without bail since September. He was considered a flight risk. The 55-year-old Cerritos man 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 convicted and 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 said 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."
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