Updated 9/28/12 3:53 pm.
When federal snitch and convicted fraudster Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was released from custody in the summer of 2011, he swore that he wouldn’t use another fake name. Barely a month later, he began producing a movie under the alias “Sam Bacile.” This summer, that movie, “The Innocence of Muslims” was uploaded to YouTube — and quickly became the focus of protests in Islamic communities worldwide for its depictions of a child-molesting Prophet Muhammad. On Thursday night, a federal magistrate ordered Nakoula back to jail.
Nakoula not only has a “lengthy pattern of deception,” Judge Suzanne H. Segal said, he poses “some danger to the community.”
It’s only the latest in a 21-year-long series of run-ins with the law for Nakoula. In August of 1991, Nakoula, who owns a gas station, was convicted on two counts of selling watered-down fuel. Six years later, he was arrested on charges related to the manufacture of PCP. Then came the 2009 arrest for using 14 different identities — including “Kritbag Difrat” and “P.J. Tobacco” – to pass off bogus checks. Afterwards, Nakoula turned informant against the supposed ringleader of the check kiting ring, and in received a relatively light penalty for participation in the scheme: a $794,700 fine, 21 months in federal custody, and an order to stop lying about who he was.
“The defendant shall not obtain or possess any driver’s license, Social Security number, birth certificate, passport or any other form of identification in any name, other than the
defendant’s true legal name,” reads Nakoula’s terms of probation (.pdf). “Nor shall the defendant use, for any purpose or in any manner, any name other than his/her true legal name or names without the prior written approval of the Probation Officer.”
On Friday, Nakoula said in court he wasn’t even using his real name when he was convicted for the bank fraud scheme. He changed in back in 2002 because “Nakoula is a girl’s name and it cause me troubles,” he claimed.
The deception convinced a federal judge to keep Nakoula behind bars. But Nakoula’s legal jeopardy isn’t contained to the criminal courts. Cindy Lee Garcia, one of the actresses in Nakoula’s film, is suing the producer. She’s one of many performers who say they were duped during the making the movie. They thought they were making a standard, if shlocky, Middle Eastern adventure flick. Only later — after selective editing and conspicuous overdubbing — did “The Innocence of Muslims” become anti-Muhammad agitprop.
In a federal complaint, Garcia says she never signed a contract giving up her intellectual property rights to the film. And even if she did, “any such release is invalid because, no matter what its terms, it was procured by Defendant Nakoula’s fraud, deception, and misrepresentation.” (.pdf)
Judge Segal, it seems, has come to a similar conclusion.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the film ”disgusting and reprehensible” after protesters emerged in Cairo and Benghazi to decry it. (Islamic extremists then apparently used the cover of those protests to launch a complex attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which eventually killed the American ambassador and three others.) Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, placed a call to the anti-Islam pastor Terry Jones to see if Jones would rescind support for the movie; Jones said no. The Obama administration asked YouTube to yank the video; the company executives declined, although they blocked it in Libya and Egypt. Eventually, Obama defended the rights of Nakoula and the other filmmakers to produce “Innocence,” even if the president disagreed with the message.
By then, Nakoula and his family were in hiding, with a “for sale” sign hanging outside their Cerritos, California, home. He may not be back for a while.