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Man behind 'Innocence of Muslims' film denies violating probation

Mona Shafer Edwards / AP

This Sept. 27 courtroom sketch shows Mark Basseley Youssef, right, talking with his attorney Steven Seiden in court. Youssef was behind an anti-Muslim film that sparked violence in the Middle East.

Updated at 5:44 p.m. ET: LOS ANGELES -- A California man who was behind an anti-Muslim film that sparked violent protests in the Middle East denied on Wednesday he violated his probation stemming from a 2010 bank fraud conviction. 

U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder ruled that Mark Basseley Youssef will remain in custody and scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Nov. 9. 

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 answered "deny" eight times when the judge asked him to respond to the allegations, which include lying to the probation officer about his role in the making of the controversial 13-minute "Innocence of Muslims" movie clip.

Youssef fled his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos and went into hiding when violence erupted in Egypt on Sept. 11 over the trailer of "Innocence of Muslims" that was posted on YouTube. The trailer depicts Mohammad as a religious fraud, womanizer and pedophile.

The unrest 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. The violence coincided with a separate attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

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Youssef's attorney, Steven Seiden, asked the court during Wednesday's brief hearing that his client be taken out of protective custody at the federal prison and released into the general population. Snyder ordered the prosecutor to meet with personnel at the federal Bureau of Prisons to determine whether that can be done, Southern California Public Radio reported.

"My client was not the cause of the violence in the Middle East," 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."   

A judge will decide whether or not Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the producer behind the 'Innocence of Muslims' film, violated the terms of his 2010 conviction on bank fraud charges. NBC's Savannah Guthrie reports.

Youssef, a Christian originally from Egypt, was convicted of bank fraud 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.   

"It will be interesting to see what the judge does and what the reaction is around the world,'' Stan Goldman, a Loyola Law School professor, told Reuters.    

Goldman said attorneys for Youssef could argue the terms of his 2011 release from prison did not apply directly to his recent activities, in which people associated with the film have said he misrepresented himself.  

"It's not exactly like an armed robber on probation, getting caught with an automatic weapon in his possession. It's a little more technical,'' Goldman said.

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.

The probation issues were the latest of Youssef's legal woes. Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress who says she was duped into appearing in the anti-Islam film, has sued him, identifying him as the film's producer. Garcia also named YouTube and its parent company Google as defendants.   

Google has refused to remove the film from YouTube, despite pressure from the White House and others, though the company has blocked the trailer in Egypt, Libya and other Muslim countries.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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