Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the Egyptian Copt filmmaker allegedly responsible for producing the anti-Muslim film “The Innocence of Muslims,” that sparked a wave of violent protests throughout North Africa and the Middle East, was ordered jail without bond on Thursday. He will remain there until another hearing can be arranged to decide whether or not he violated the terms of his probation.
In 2010, Nakoula pleaded no contest to check fraud charges. After a 21-month-long sentence in federal prison, he was ordered to pay restitution charges amounting to more than $790,000 and prohibited from using computers or the Internet for a five-year probation period, unless he received authorization from his probation officer.
But his participation in the inflammatory film “Innocence of Muslims,” which, according to The New York Times, paints the Muslim prophet Muhammad as “a child of uncertain parentage, a buffoon, a womanizer, a homosexual, a child molester and a greedy, bloodthirsty thug,” may have violated those terms.
The film, excerpts of which can be found on Youtube, has triggered protests around the globe, in countries like Libya, Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Greece and the Phillippines – many of which resulted in fatalities.
Nakoula, 55, is a former gas station owner who has previously been convicted for intent to manufacture methamphetamine. Even more incriminatingly, he has a previous conviction for bank fraud, which he allegedly orchestrated through a string of aliases. Prosecutors say that he used the aliases along with stolen social security numbers to create fraudulent bank accounts in “a check-kiting scheme.”
"You try to get the money out of the bank before the bank realizes they are drawn from a fraudulent account. There basically is no money,” said an attorney for the prosecution in an interview with the Associated Press.
Nakoula also allegedly created and financed “Innocence of Muslims” using similar aliases. Prosecutors believe that he uploaded the film to YouTube, under the pseudonym Sam Bacile. After the film was released, Bacile allegedly spoke to the press and took credit for the film, calling Islam “a cancer.”
Nakoula corroborated Bacile’s identity, saying the man was a 52-year old Israeli-born producer living in California, who had financed the film. But just a day after the interview, the AP ascertained that no such person actually existed, and determined that Bacile was an alias of Nakoula’s. This was later confirmed by federal authorities and by Joseph Nasralla,an Egyptian Copt who allowed Nakoula to shoot the film in a facility he owned.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress who appears in the trailer for the film, has filed a lawsuit against Nakoula to get the film taken off YouTube. In her suit, Garcia accuses Nakoula of fraud and libel, alleging that he used the false pseudonym Sam Bacile, and deceived her and other actors about the content of the movie. According to Garcia, actors were led to believe that they were making an adventure film called “Desert Warrior.”
Suzanne Segal, the U.S. Central District Chief Magistrate Judge presiding over the case, said that Nakoula had "engaged in a likely pattern of deception both to his probation officers and the court.”
“The court has a lack of trust in the defendant at this time,” she added.
Mark Werksman, a Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney, told the AP, “This case breaks the mold… If the video hadn’t gone viral, and caused the Arabic world to blow up, who would care if this guy is using YouTube? It’s all about politics with this guy.”
Jack Whitaker, a defense attorney for Nakoula, declined to comment on his arrest yesterday.