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California man behind anti-Islam film 'Innocence of Muslims' denies violating probation

“My client was not the cause of the violence in the Middle East. Clearly it was pre-planned and that was just an excuse and trigger point to have more violence," said Mark Youseff's defense attorney Steven Seiden.
“My client was not the cause of the violence in the Middle East. Clearly it was pre-planned and that was just an excuse and trigger point to have more violence," said Mark Youseff's defense attorney Steven Seiden. Erika Aguilar/KPCC

The Cerritos man who is believed to have made the controversial anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" denied all eight allegations that he violated his probation agreement.

Mark Youseff, also known as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, appeared in federal court Wednesday for a preliminary probation revocation hearing. Youseff was convicted in 2010 of bank fraud including opening up credit cards using fake names. He was released in June of last year on federal supervised release or probation but arrested in September on suspicions of probation violation.

Prosecutors allege Youseff violated his probation eight times including lying to probation officers that his role in the making of the film was limited to writing the script. He’s also accused of lying to probation officers about using the name Sam Bacile and variations of it without prior permission and for alleging having a California driver’s license registered under the name of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula without probation permission.

Youseff was dressed in a white prison jumpsuit, handcuffed with chains around his waist. He is being held at a federal prison in downtown Los Angeles. Youseff was denied bail at his September arraignment hearing.

His attorney Steven Seiden asked the court that Youseff be taken out of protective custody at the federal prison and released into general inmate population. The judge, Christina Snyder, ordered the prosecutor and defense attorney to meet with personnel at the federal Bureau of Prisons to determine whether that can be done.

Seiden didn’t explain why he wanted Youseff to be removed from protective custody. At the last hearing, Seiden claimed detaining Youseff in the federal Metropolitan Detention Center could put his client in danger because of what Seiden called a “large Muslim population” at the prision. The Bureau of Prison estimates that approximately four percent of the inmates at MDC are Muslim.  

Outside the courthouse, Seiden made brief comments to a mass of media after the hearing. He said the press, the President and Secretary of State unfairly blamed Youseff for the violence and protests in the Middle East.

“My client was not the cause of the violence in the Middle East. Clearly it was pre-planned and that was just an excuse and trigger point to have more violence,” said Seiden.

He said he would watch closely congressional hearings investigating the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Libya to see how that would impact his client’s case.

Youseff’s next court date is Nov. 9 for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether he violated probation.

Federal probation officers have suggested a two-year prison sentence if Youseff is found to have violated his probation. The sentence request is an unusually lengthy one for probation violations. Free speech advocates have said they are suspicious of Youseff’s arrest and believe it has more to do with the political unrest the film has caused and not probation violations.

This story has been updated.

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