LOS ANGELES — Muslims across the Middle East outraged by an anti-Islam film made in America wanted swift punishment for the man behind the movie, and now Mark Basseley Youssef is behind bars. But he’s jailed for lying about his identity, not because of the video’s content.
Court documents show Youssef, 55, legally changed his name from Nakoula Basseley Nakoula in 2002, but never told federal authorities, who now are using that as part of the probation violation case against him.
Youssef was ordered jailed without bail Thursday until a hearing is held to determine if he violated terms of his supervised release on a 2010 bank fraud conviction. Prosecutors allege he used multiple aliases and lied to his probation officers about his real name.
Youssef, an Egyptian-born Christian who’s now a U.S. citizen, sought to obtain a passport in his new name but still had a California driver’s license as Nakoula, assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dugdale said Friday. Youssef used a third name, Sam Bacile, in association with the 14-minute trailer for the movie “Innocence of Muslims” that was posted on YouTube. It portrays Muhammad as a religious fraud, womanizer and pedophile.
The case isn’t about Youssef’s First Amendment right to make a controversial film. Rather, Dugdale said, it’s about his failure to live up to his obligation to be truthful with federal authorities.
“The fact that he wasn’t using his true name with probation, that’s where the problem is,” said Dugdale, who noted federal authorities now will refer to Nakoula as Youssef.
Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles’ School of Law, said U.S. Central District Chief Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal’s decision to order Youssef held without bail is supported by the evidence.