'Innocence of Muslims' creator goes to jail

Courtroom drawing shows alleged anti-Islamic filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (R) in court on probation violation charges in Los Angeles, California (AFP Photo / Mona Shafer)
The creator of the anti-Muslim movie that spurred violent protests across the Middle East was sentenced to a year in prison on Wednesday for unrelated prison violations after his attorneys agreed to a plea bargain.

Mark Bassely Youssef, a 55-year-old US citizen originally from Egypt, admitted to half of the eight alleged violations that landed him in police custody in late September, reports the Associated Press. After he was believed to be involved in the “Innocence of Muslims” film that prompted outrage earlier this year, Youssef went into hiding. He was eventually detained, however, and forced to face accusations that he had broken the conditions of a previous sentence dished out for allegedly using more than a dozen aliases to open multiple banks accounts to mastermind a check fraud scheme. On Wednesday, he admitted to four of those charges, including obtaining a fraudulent California driver's license, and was sentenced to serve one year behind bars.

Outside of a Los Angeles, California courtroom, defense attorney Steven Seiden delivered an ominous statement from his client, then said he could not elaborate further.

"The one thing he wanted me to tell all of you is President Obama may have gotten Osama bin Laden, but he didn't kill the ideology," Seiden told reporters.

When asked for a meaning behind the message, Seiden responded, “I didn’t ask him, and I don’t know.”

A movie trailer for Youssef’s film that was uploaded to YouTube was discovered earlier this year, in turn sparking demonstrations across the Muslim World over the movie's portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizing, criminal pedophile. On September 11, one of those protests in Cairo, Egypt, involved hundreds of protesters rallying outside the US Embassy, slugging anti-American slogans and demanding the ambassador’s exit. In the immediate aftermath of that action, the US consulate building in Benghazi, Libya was stormed in what was originally believed to be a similar response to the film. That action, and the subsequent slaying of four US citizens including Ambassador Mark Stevens, was later verified by the Obama administration as an unrelated terrorist attack and became a hot topic this election year.

The American actors cast in the film say they were duped into working on the movie and that heavy editing resulted in much of the film’s message and dialogue being altered after they left the studio. When the movie went viral, those actors said they were also terrorized and traumatized after receiving death threats. Prosecutors recalled those testimonies in court this week to suggest that Youssef had once again misrepresented himself in a move that has only hurt others in an attempt to advance his self.

"They had no idea he was a recently released felon," Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dugdale said Wednesday. "Had they known that, they might have had second thoughts" about being part of the film.

"This is a defendant who has engaged in a long pattern of deception," Dugdale said. "His dishonesty goes back years."

Seiden, Youssef’s attorney replied that, "People involved in moviemaking are entitled to change anything,” adding that the performers who condemned the film after the fact had signed releases with the studio regardless. According to Seiden, Youssef’s role with the movie was that of “cultural” adviser and scriptwriter.