LOS ANGELES • A California man who was behind an anti-Muslim film that sparked violence in the Middle East denied on Wednesday he violated his probation stemming from a 2010 bank fraud conviction.
U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Nov. 9 for Mark Basseley Youssef.
Youssef, 55, has been in a federal detention center since Sept. 28 after he was arrested for eight probation violations and deemed a flight risk by another judge. Prosecutors said Youssef lied to his probation officers about his real name and used aliases.
Youssef fled his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos and went into hiding when violence erupted in Egypt on Sept. 11 over a 14-minute trailer of "Innocence of Muslims" that was posted on YouTube. The trailer depicts Mohammad as a religious fraud, womanizer and pedophile.
The violence spread, killing dozens, and enraged Muslims have demanded severe punishment for Youssef, with a Pakistani cabinet minister offering $100,000 to anyone who kills him.
"My client was not the cause of the violence in the Middle East," attorney Steven Seiden said after Wednesday’s hearing. "Clearly, it was pre-planned and it was just an excuse and a trigger point to have more violence."
Federal authorities have stressed that Youssef was taken into custody for probation violations and not because of the content of the film, which is protected by the First Amendment.
Youssef, a Christian originally from Egypt, was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to 21 months in prison. After he was freed, he was barred from using computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer. He also wasn’t supposed to use any name other than his true legal name without the prior written approval of his probation officer.
At least three names have been associated with Youssef since the film trailer surfaced — Sam Bacile, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and Youssef.
Court documents show Youssef legally changed his name from Nakoula in 2002, but he never told federal authorities while he was being prosecuted for check fraud. Orange County Superior Court documents show he wanted the change because he believed Nakoula sounded like a girl’s name.
Youssef sought a passport in his new name but still had a California driver’s license as Nakoula, authorities said.
Authorities said Youssef used more than a dozen aliases and opened about 60 bank accounts and had more than 600 credit and debit cards to conduct the check fraud scheme.
Bacile was the name attached to the YouTube account that posted the video.
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