The filmmaker behind an anti-Islam YouTube video that was initially blamed for sparking deadly protests in the Muslim world admitted today violating his probation and was sentenced to a year in federal prison.
Mark Basseley Youssef, 55, who previously used the name Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, admitted four allegations of using false identities, including having a California driver's license with a fake name. In exchange for his admission, prosecutors dropped four other allegations.
He had faced a possible sentence of two years behind bars for the eight probation violations.
Youssef pleaded no contest in 2010 to bank fraud charges for using phony Social Security numbers to open bank and credit card accounts, according to court documents. He was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and ordered not to use computers or the Internet for five years without prior authorization.
He was also prohibited from using fictitious names during his supervised release.
In court today, U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder said Youssef must spend 12 months behind bars, followed by four years of supervised release. Youssef has already been in custody for about five weeks.
As part of his plea deal, Youssef agreed to a proffer in which he would discuss with prosecutors his finances in detail, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dugdale said.
While denying the 14-minute video clip "Innocence of Muslims" -- also known as "Desert Warrior" -- had anything to do with the probation matter, Dugdale said Youssef had "betrayed" the actors who appeared in the film by not telling them he was a "recently released convicted felon."
Also, before uploading the film -- which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and child abuser -- Youssef had dubbed inflammatory dialogue in place of words actually spoken by the actors, Dugdale said.
"He made that choice for other people," the prosecutor said.
Such behavior illustrated Youssef's "long-standing pattern of deception," Dugdale said.
According to papers filed in a separate case, Youssef, an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian, wrote and produced the trailer, uploading the English- language version on YouTube on July 2, followed by a version dubbed in Arabic on Sept. 11.
"His deception actually caused real harm to people," Dugdale told the court, adding that at least one actress from the film feared for her life.
Others, he said, "believe their careers are ruined" as a result of their involvement in the video.
Defense attorney Steve Seiden, however, argued that as the prime mover behind the film, Youssef had the right to change dialogue, titles and other facets of the production.
"The actors signed releases," he said.
Before his September arrest in Cerritos, Youssef had been in hiding as a result of deadly violence across the globe said to have been sparked by his film clip.
Protests that were initially blamed on the video broke out in August -- first in Egypt, then Libya, then throughout the Muslim world, including Pakistan, and dozens were killed in the unrest.
The clip's impact is in dispute. It was initially blamed for an attack in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11. But U.S. government officials have since blamed their deaths on terrorism coinciding with the anniversary of the 9/11 terror strikes.
At a previous probation hearing, Youssef denied using aliases or making false statements to the officer overseeing his court-ordered probation.
Federal prosecutors said Youssef lied when he told his probation officer that his role in the film was limited to writer.
Dugdale said today Youssef's criminal history also includes a previous drug conviction.
This story is by Fred Shuster of City News Service.