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Man behind anti-Muslim film sentenced to prison

LOS ANGELES -- The California man behind an anti-Muslim film that roiled the Middle East was sentenced yesterday to a year in prison for violating his probation stemming from a 2010 bank fraud conviction by lying about his identity.

U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder immediately sentenced Mark Basseley Youssef after he admitted to four of the eight alleged violations, including obtaining a fraudulent California driver's license. Prosecutors agreed to drop the other four allegations under an agreement with Youssef's attorneys, which included more probation.

None of the violations had to do with the content of "Innocence of Muslims," a film that depicts Mohammad as a religious fraud, pedophile and womanizer.

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dugdale argued that Yousef's lies about his identity have caused harm to others, including the film's cast and crew.

The movie sparked violence in the Middle East, killing dozens.

"They had no idea he was a recently released felon," Dugdale said yesterday. "Had they known that, they might have had second thoughts" about being part of the film.

Youssef's attorney, Steven Seiden, said his client admits to being the film's scriptwriter but had no other involvement except what he described as being a "cultural adviser."

Youssef, 55, was arrested in late September, just weeks after he went into hiding when the deadly violence erupted in the Middle East.

Enraged Muslims had demanded severe punishment for Youssef, with a Pakistani cabinet minister even offering $100,000 to anyone who kills him.

Seiden asked that his client be placed under home confinement, but Snyder denied that request. Youssef will spend his time behind bars at a Southern California prison.

Youssef served most of his 21-month prison sentence for using more than a dozen aliases and opening about 60 bank accounts to conduct a check fraud scheme, prosecutors said.

Federal authorities have said they believe Youssef is responsible for the film, but they haven't said whether he was the person who posted it online. 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. Bacile was the name attached to the YouTube account that posted the video.

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