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Entries in Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (3)

Friday
Oct052012

Lawyers Rally in Defense of Anti-Muslim Filmmaker

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There was little outcry when the maker of the inflammatory film that mocked the Prophet Mohammed was arrested in California for violating his probation.

The film had ignited anti-American sentiment around the world, left U.S. embassies and consulates on tense alert, and is blamed -- at least partially -- for the deaths of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Days after that attack, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, walked out of his Encitas, Calif., home with a cloth draped over his head, accompanied by federal probation agents.

But the arrest and continued detention without bail of Nakoula, the creator of Innocence of Muslims, has prompted a growing concern that the maker of the anti-Muslim film may be unfairly targeted for his inflammatory film.

"As someone who has had clients accused of violating conditions of probation, this is not standard operating procedure for these violations.  It is relatively rare to see people incarcerated in relatively minor violations," said George Washington University law professor John Turley.

"There were great suspicions raised by the speed and intensity of investigation of the filmmaker.  Many people viewed it as something of a pretext investigation," he said.  "It seemed obvious to many of us that the administration wanted a picture of this man being handcuffed and put in the back of a cruiser so it would play around the world and in the Arab street."

Nakoula had been convicted in 2010 of a bank fraud case, and according to charges later filled against him, had violated the probation from that case by using an alias, possibly going on the Internet, and lying to federal agents.

Nakoula allegedly initially told federal agents that he only wrote the script for the film before admitting to producing it.  He also used the alias "Sam Basile" when talking to actors and the media about the film, according to court documents.

He was remanded to jail without bail because of a "lengthy pattern of deception" for using fake identities and was deemed a flight risk who posed "some danger to the community," according to federal Judge Suzanne Segal.

Nakoula's attorneys have been directed by their client not to make statements to the media, saying they are formulating arguments to fight the charges, lawyer Chris Williams said.

Experts concede that the U.S. Department of Probation was within its rights to press charges against Nakoula if they have evidence he violated the terms of his probation.  And some dismiss suggestions that Nakoula is being treated unfairly.

"As prosecutors, we can't abuse the law," said Steven Jansen, COO of Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.  "We have to uphold it.  We have freedom of speech and all of that, so I don't believe that's their intent to go after him because of those areas."

But to some first amendment scholars and advocates, the arrest was a warning flag that Nakoula was possibly being targeted for the content of his free speech.

"We have first amendment protections for our right of free speech, but they are somewhat hollow rights if not protected by an independent judiciary to call government to account," said Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center.

"That's what has to happen here.  The judge has to fairly evaluate whether this is a back door way to punish him for expressing an opinion that is unpopular in the country," Policinski said.

Segal has not yet set a date for a bond hearing for Nakoula, according to Williams.  Until that occurs, Nakoula will be held without bail.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep272012

Anti-Islam Filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula Arrested on Probation Violation, Detained Without Bail

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- The Southern California man who wrote and produced the controversial anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" was ordered detained without bail by a federal judge for allegedly violating the terms of his probation.

Citing a "lengthy pattern of deception," Judge Suzanne Segal said that the court had a "lack of trust" in Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, and believed him to be a flight risk who posed "some danger to the community."

Nakoula, 55, appeared remotely via video conference at the U.S. District Court preliminary hearing in Los Angeles. He had been asked to report to an office of the U.S. Probation Office, where U.S. Marshals officially arrested him.

Authorities have been investigating whether he violated the terms of his supervised release from a 2010 conviction in a bank fraud case.

Nakoula had met with federal probation officers on Sept. 14 about whether his involvement in the film violated the terms of his probation, which barred him from accessing the Internet without prior approval and from using any name other than his legal name.

The inflammatory film has been blamed for violent protests across the Middle East, including in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans died, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, when militants attacked U.S. diplomatic facilities there on Sept. 11.

Nakoula admitted his role in the film and sought help from law enforcement in dealing with death threats he had received since the film's release, saying he was "scared to death" about the safety of himself and his family, authorities told ABC News.

Nakoula had originally used the pseudonym Sam Bacile, telling reporters he was an "Israeli Jew" and that the film had cost about $5,000,000, which came from wealthy Jewish friends.

But Nakoula, who is actually an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian, later told authorities that he and his son, Abanob Basseley, 21, were responsible for producing the movie. He reportedly said the film cost between $50,000 and $60,000 and was shot in a little over 12 days. Authorities say he claimed the money for the movie came from his wife's family in Egypt.

Last week, Nakoula's family members fled their home to join the filmmaker in hiding. Nakoula has not returned to his Cerritos, Calif., home since being interviewed Sept. 14 by federal probation officers about his role in the creation of the film.

Shortly before 4 a.m. on Sept. 17, officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department escorted members of Nakoula's family, who had their faces covered, out of the house and into police vehicles so they could rejoin Nakoula at an undisclosed location.

"They decided they would be safer where they could move about and live a normal life," said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department. "All we did was pick them up and reunite them with Mr. Nakoula."

Whitmore said the family's current whereabouts are unknown to him, and it was his understanding that they won't ever return to their Cerritos house, though that decision was "entirely up to the family."

"What we do know and what they told me is that for the time now and for the immediate future, for the weeks and months to come, they will not be returning to this address," Whitmore said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep142012

Anti-Islam Film Producer Wrote Script in Prison: Authorities

JACK GUEZ/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- The controversial Innocence of Muslims was written, produced and directed by a convicted drug manufacturer and scam artist, who has told authorities he actually wrote the script in federal prison and began production two months after his June 2011 release from custody.

Authorities say Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, of Cerritos, Calif., admitted his role in the film, after seeking help from law enforcement in dealing with death threats he has received since the release of the film. Excerpts from the film led to outrage and violence in the Arab world.

Authorities told ABC News that Nakoula told them he and his son, Abanob Basseley, 21, were responsible for producing the movie which, he reportedly said, cost between $50,000 and $60,000 and was shot in a little over 12 days.

Authorities say he claimed the money for the movie came from his wife's family in Egypt.

Using the false name Sam Basile, Nakoula had told reporters earlier this week that he was an "Israeli Jew," that the film had cost about $5,000,000, and that the money had come from wealthy Jewish friends.

Now he is "scared to death," authorities told ABC News, and fearful that harm could come to his wife and other family members. But most of the threats have been directed at him, authorities said.

According to California law enforcement officials the other members of the team that produced the movie are also fearful that harm could come to them. Authorities were seeking to talk to each of them.

Records obtained by ABC News show Nakoula was convicted of intent to manufacture methamphetamine in the 1990s, and also served time in federal prison on bank fraud charges, where he told authorities he wrote the script.

Sentenced to 21 months in prison and five years on probation, Nakoula was moved from the federal correctional complex in Lompoc, Calif. to a halfway house in 2010, according to the website The Smoking Gun. He was released from federal custody in June 2011 and production on the film began just two months later at a soundstage in Southern California.

Actors in the film say that they were told the film was called "Desert Warrior," and say that the script contained no references to Mohammed. Actress Cindy Lee Garcia told ABC News, "I never heard Mohammed, I never said Mohammed." Specific references to Mohammed and Islam were apparently added via overdubbing.

"I just want the world to know that I did not know," said Garcia.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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