Anti-Islam Film's Producer Is On Federal Probation

Movie shot after L.A. man freed from halfway house

Consulate attack

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Nakoula Charges

SEPTEMBER 13--The California man who produced the anti-Islam video now roiling the Middle East planned on shooting his Mohammed broadside in early-2009, but his plans were scuttled when federal agents arrested him for a financial fraud, records show.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, first sought to hire crew members for “Desert Warrior” in May 2009, according to a production notice which described the film as a low budget “indie feature” that included “flashbacks of history of early warriors.”

But Nakoula’s production was shelved for more than two years following his June 2009 arrest by postal inspectors. He pleaded guilty to a felony bank fraud count and was sentenced in June 2010 to 21 months in prison (which he split between three Bureau of Prisons facilities) and five years probatioin. Nakoula was aided by an Arabic translator during court sessions.

A variety of documents filed in the U.S. District Court case were sealed at the request of prosecutors and Nakoula’s lawyer. The sealed records--from the transcript of Nakoula’s change-of-plea hearing to sentencing memoranda--appear to indicate that his plea agreement with the government included some form of cooperation. Nakoula’s indictment alleged that he operated his bank swindle with “one or more co-schemers.”

Following his September 2010 release from the federal lockup in Lompoc, California, Nakoula spent three months in a Long Beach halfway house. He was freed in late-December 2010, but appears to have violated terms of his release, which resulted in a return to the halfway house. He departed the facility on June 22, 2011.

While being supervised on federal probation, Nakoula returned last year to “Desert Warrior.” A July 2011 casting notice described the film as a “Historical desert drama set in the Middle East” that was scheduled for an 18-day shoot in L.A.. The film was shot last August at Blue Cloud Movie Ranch in Santa Clarita.

Nakoula introduced himself to cast and crew as Sam Bassily (though his surname was spelled several different ways). He was aided during the shoot by Abanub Nakoula, 20, with whom he shares a Cerritos, California address.

The younger Nakoula did not respond to a message sent to his Facebook page, which has been scrubbed of hundreds of photos showing him playing in a basketball league sponsored by the Coptic Orthodox Church Diocese. He also did not respond to a message left on his cell phone (the number for which recently has been listed in Craigslist ads offering home delivery of bongs and pipes). Nakoula’s brother’s Facebook page includes among his favorites a “Coptic memes” page.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is a Coptic Christian, and yesterday told the Associated Press that he has supported Copt concerns about their treatment by Muslims. His film, now known as “Innocence of Muslims,” viciously mocks Muslims and the Prophet Mohammed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today described the film as “disgusting and reprehensible” and intended to “provoke rage.” She also emphasized that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the film.

While the film’s 14-minute trailer is online, the entire movie has apparently only been screened once, on June 30 at Hollywood’s Vine Theater. Nakoula & Co. sought to gin up an audience by distributing fliers that listed the film’s title as “Innocence of Bn Laden.” As seen above (click to enlarge), L.A. resident Matt Cornell photographed the fliers--written primarily in Arabic--after spotting them at a fast food chicken restaurant.

The film was apparently mischaracterized as a pro-bin Laden production in an harebrained attempt to lure individuals who might have a soft spot for the late al Qaeda leader (but would, of course, have been enlightened upon seeing the ramshackle, overdubbed film). (7 pages)