Hearing set for Calif. man behind anti-Muslim film

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Prosecutors could provide more details Wednesday about the California man behind an anti-Muslim film that roiled the Middle East in a case where he's accused of violating the terms of his probation by lying about his identity.

While none of the eight alleged violations have to do with the content of "Innocence of Muslims," what prompted Mark Basseley Youssef to use at least two aliases after he was convicted in 2010 of bank fraud remains a mystery.

The revocation hearing will give Youssef, 55, a chance to challenge any evidence gathered by federal authorities since his arrest in late September, just weeks after he went into hiding when deadly violence erupted in Libya and other parts of the Middle East in response to the movie.

Enraged Muslims have demanded severe punishment for Youssef, with even a Pakistani cabinet minister offering $100,000 to anyone who kills him.

Federal authorities are seeking a two-year sentence for Youssef, who remains held without bail.

Youssef had been sentenced to 21 months in prison for using more than a dozen aliases and opening about 60 bank accounts to conduct a check fraud scheme, prosecutors said. After Youssef was released from prison, he was barred from using computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer.

Federal authorities have said they believe Youssef is responsible for the film, but they haven't said whether he was the person who posted it online. He also wasn't supposed to use any name other than his true legal name without the prior written approval of his probation officer.

At least three names have been associated with Youssef since the film trailer surfaced — Sam Bacile, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and Youssef. Bacile was the name attached to the YouTube account that posted the video, which depicts Mohammad as a religious fraud, pedophile and a womanizer.

Court documents show Youssef legally changed his name from Nakoula in 2002, though when he was tried, he identified himself as Nakoula. He wanted the name change because he believed Nakoula sounded like a girl's name, according to court documents.

Among the violations Youssef denied were obtaining a fraudulent California driver's license, telling federal authorities that his role in the film was limited to writing the script and using the "Nakoula" name throughout his bank fraud case. Prosecutors recently sought transcripts from a pair of 2009 hearings in the bank fraud case where Youssef told two judges that his true name was Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

"I think the main thing to focus on is that he may agree with some of the allegations but not all of them," said Tess Lopez, a former federal probation officer who now is a sentencing consultant in Northern California. "Then prosecutors have to decide whether to drop the remaining charges or find more evidence to prove the allegations are true."

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