Man behind "Innocence of Muslims" video ordered jailed for violating fraud probation by using computers

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula escorted by LA County Sherriff's deputies from his home in Cerritos, CA. Photo: AP/CBS2-KCAL9, LA.

A federal judge today determined that California resident Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (aka Sam Bacile), one of the men behind a crappy, anti-Islamic YouTube video linked to violent protests in the Middle East and the death of a US ambassador, "is a flight risk" and must be jailed. Snip from AP:

Citing a lengthy pattern of deception, U.S. Central District Chief Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal said Nakoula Basseley Nakoula should be held after officials said he violated his probation from a 2010 check fraud conviction.

‘‘The court has a lack of trust in this defendant at this time,’’ Segal said.

Nakoula had eight probation violations, including lying to his probation officers and using aliases, and he might face new charges that carry a maximum two-year prison term, authorities said.

After his 2010 conviction, Nakoula was sentenced to 21 months in prison and was barred from using computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer.

Read the full AP item here.

Noah Shachtman at Wired News' Danger Room has more on this story development, here. Snip:

It’s only the latest in a 21 year-long series of run-ins with the law. In August of 1991, Nakoula, who own 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 to pass off bogus checks. Among them: Kritbag Difrat and P.J. Tobacco. 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 keep his hands off of the keyboard and mouse.

Thumbnail: Nakoula with one of the actors in "Innocence of Muslims," via NY Daily News.

(thanks, Aileen Graef)


  1. he’s no charmer, make no mistake, but i can’t help but think he’d be free if his amateurish efforts weren’t so “successful”.

    1. Even if he didn’t make waves internationally, he did violate his probation at least eight times.  I’ve known a few people in my home town who had internet bans as part of probation, and went directly to jail (did not pass go, did not collect $500) when they were caught the first time.

      For me, most of the time, an internet ban would be just only slightly better than solitary confinement.  But if you break probation, you gotta go back to jail.  You did sign a legally binding contract promising you would follow specifically enumerated rules, and check in with your probation officer.  If you break the rules and hide that you did, or not check with your officer first, by your own agreement you should go back to prison, like you said you would.  It’s not easy, and it’s a one-sided negotiation, but it is leniency granted from the default sentence, so there’s little to no room for complaining about the terms.

      1. You hit the nail on the head.  If someone yells “Fire!” in a crowded theater, it’s gonna get looked into.
        Now what’s the guy’s name?  Sam Imbecile or something?  Eight probation violations, sheesh, a misanthrope without a grain of self-control.

    1. I think by now most reasonable people have put together the fact that the video was released six months before the attack, and the attack itself was on 9/11, and the video was shown on a bunch of tv stations only a week or two before 9/11.
      In light of these facts, it’s pretty obvious that the video was simply the most convinient excuse to use in order to claim that America brought the attack directly on itself.  Personally, I think if something half as inflammatory was released only a month before 9/11 by an American, that instead would have been blamed for the attacks, riots, and would have been used to turn up the pressure.

      1.  I haven’t seen any articles that have managed to actually find the “film” to view it.

        I suspect that not only have the protesters not seen it, but their religious leaders that whipped them up into a frenzy also haven’t seen it, and that at least some of those religious leaders took their orders to whip up the frenzy from those that would do us ill.  It doesn’t take that many agents provocateur to stir the pot, especially when they’re sufficiently high-ranking.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a small conspiracy to do us ill with some religious leaders involved, and once the message that those conspiring leaders got out, other leaders followed suit because they thought it was the trend, not even knowing why.  One ends up with thousands of people pissed off for no good reason, which acts as one hell of a cover for doing something nefarious like targeted killing.

    2. Which was reported by FP and implied by the Whitehouse the day after the attack.  Hell, several posters pointed it out here in the threads about the attack at the time.  

      I’m still not sure where this idea came from that the Libya attack and the protests elsewhere were related.  It seems like sloppy, lazy crap from people who just view all of “them” as one giant block.

  2. This guy is grade-A douchenozzle who likely belongs in jail, but I still don’t like the idea that “using a computer” can still be a parole-ending offense in the year 2012. Computers are so ubiquitous now that it’s hard to imagine being a productive member of modern society without ever using a computer of some kind. Is this just one of those conditions they just impose on parolees knowing that they’ll probably be able to get them on a violation if they feel like throwing them back inside?

    1. You could say that about cars, but I wouldn’t hesitate to stop someone from using one if there were a compelling reason.

      I think the problem is more that vital services have started terminating all non-computerated interactions with the outside world. It shouldn’t be necessary to have a computer and connection to file a police report, for instance.

      1. My 84 year old grandmother (sharp as a nanorazor, I haven’t beaten her in any argument or debate, and that’s what my family does) seems to do okay.  She lives independently in Oregon with her husband, in a pretty rural area, and does just fine without the internet.  She never cared to learn how to operate computers, thought they were unnecessary for life and a hindrance.  Turns out she was right in her case.  Instead of pushing information around the web to get things done, she walks a mile into town, where she runs her errands and keeps in touch with people.  It’s nearly astounding.

        She’s no average woman, and put me, my brother and our six cousins through college fully funded.  She’s a very prudent investor, and started saving at 16 when she got her first job.

        She’s definitely one of my favorite role models, even if she is a religious zealot and a teapartier.  We don’t see eye-to-eye on a whole lot of things, but her extraordinary health and mental well being for her age belies a life full of exercise and healthy diet (but not vegetarian or vegan….Strange….)

        The only thing she does that I can’t stand, is keep alerting me to “new studies” from nutriceutical and homeopathic advertising “journals.”  You know what I mean: “the six amazing powers of vitamin D your doctor doesn’t want you to know” and “What your pharmacist won’t tell you about the DtAP vaccine could kill you!” That kind of bullshit.

        But all in all, I think I should stop my rambling before I go off the deep end, on all the psuedo scientific claims she believes and I don’t argue about with her, since she’s as stubborn as a mule.  :-]

        1. healthy diet (but not vegetarian or vegan….Strange….)

          What’s strange about the idea of a healthy diet that isn’t vegetarian or vegan?

      2. Access to information is very different to access to a speedy vehicle.

        Hence the reaction to UK policy restricting internet access as part of our draconian laws governing piracy.  It’s a human rights thing, which banning people from driving isn’t.

        1.  “using computers or the internet without permission

          did you miss the “without permission” part.

          It’s not about using computers. It’s about refusing the reasonable punishment for his prior crime.

          All he had to do was ask. He refused to. Jailtime.

          1. Who’s giving this ‘permission’? You could argue our laws (that I referenced) also only prevent you from using the internet unless you have permission. The caveat being that requests will always be denied.

          2.  Although I have never been forced to live off-line (or restricted), I’ve certainly done it for a couple of weeks here and there and, and I do not mean this to sound really aggro or nasty, I can’t help but think that you may be being rather on the histrionic side here.

            Also, it isn’t as though “the authorities” never compromise with criminals for their better interest; consider work release.  I’m no expert on this point either, however.  Nor am I trying to shine anyone’s boots.

          3. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I had to Google ‘Histrionic’ – but assuming I understood your meaning correctly I’m at least petty sure it doesn’t apply here – even if it does I don’t think it changes my point.
            My point was merely that giving rights on-request isn’t that much better than removing them entirely. The EU is quite clear on its stance when it comes to information access and human rights – which was my original reference.

          4. “My point was merely that giving rights on-request isn’t that much better than removing them entirely. ”

            I find false dichotomies equally repellant.

          5. It’s that false assumption of a right to internet as a basic human right that is getting in the way. It’s a bit…. entitled.

            It was a privilege, and it was taken away. Dem’s da breaks.

          6. It may be a false assumption where you live, but not where I live – and there’s nothing entitled about the expectation to have access to information – unless you also think a right to education is entitled.

          7. -and there’s nothing entitled about the expectation to have access to information-

            He’s a criminal. There absolutely is a sense of entitlement there if you believe that taking someone offline is == to them having no access to information.

            They’re not the same thing, and I tire of what appears to be your bad faith argument.

          8. Well the European Court of Human Rights disagrees with you, for what it’s worth. I will admit I also don’t really know a whole lot about the probation system and what levees it has over rights compared to being in prison – I just wanted to put it out there that some people do consider this a right.

            As pointed out though, this isn’t a shared legal opinion in the US anyway, so moot from that perspective.

          9.  Further, it’s not about where you live. It’s about where he lives. Because it’s not about you.

      3. I think the problem is more that vital services have started terminating all non-computerated interactions with the outside world.

        I agree that’s a problem, but it’s one outside of a parolee’s control. The world is what it is.
        As someone else pointed out we don’t forbid convicted phone scammers from using telephones as a condition of parole, or people convicted of mail fraud from using the postal system as a condition of parole. Nor do we require those parolees from getting permission to make a phone call or send a letter once they’re outside. (At least as far as I’ve ever heard.)

        Again, I’m fine with throwing this guy back in jail. I’d just feel a lot better about it if we used a more reasonable justification for doing so.

    2. it’s hard to imagine being a productive member of modern society without ever using a computer of some kind

      I think it might be OK to limit this guy’s “productiveness” to stocking produce or something.

      1.  Just don’t let him near the barcode scanner you need to use to stock anything outside the produce section – that’s a computer.

          1. Really what?  Really that it’s a computer, or really that I seriously meant he should not be allowed to handle one?

            As for the first one: –

            My point was that the word “computer” has undergone an extreme change in its meaning, to the point where almost any complex device can be defined as a computer under a perfectly legitimate definition.  The same is rapidly becoming true of “using the Internet”.

            When what we want is that someone refrain from using a laptop, desktop, or tablet PC with a WIMP user interface, and from using a standard web browser, IM or email client – it’s getting harder and harder to spell that out. Would he be violating parole by buying books with a Kindle?  Making cell phone calls from a smart phone with a data plan?  Without a data plan?

    3. He can use a computer, he just needs permission.  I would imagine that if he had a job where he had to occasionally use a computer, he could get that permission.  

      I agree that it is harsh in this day and age, but it beats prison. My only real concern is that a technologically backwards judge hands out the punishment like the way they hand out community service, not realizing the severity of such a punishment for some people.  That said, so long as they can get permission for reasonable things and the potentially career destroying punishment isn’t tossed around like community service, I’m not against it being a form of punishment.  

    4. This.  When a phone scammer commits fraud, are they forbidden from using telephones?  I’d like to see a court prevent someone from using the Postal Service, along with pens and paper, for mail fraud.

      If the legal system is not ready to move into the 21st century, then at least they might try for the second half of the 20th century.

      1.  You mean asking permission to send mail? Like the way they read your letters from jail before they send them, or before you get them.


        1. That’s a restriction imposed on people who are still in jail, not people who are out on parole and supposedly trying to re-integrate into society.

          1.  True.

            When they’re reintegrating corrupt bankers into society, is it uncommon or unreasonable to ban them from working with large sums of other people’s money?

          2. It’s not like a zero tolerance policy disallowing use of devices containing microprocessors. He’s lost the right to something he abused, as part of a release from prison. He didn’t have to agree to it.

    5. using computers -without approval- is the nuance that needs to be seen here.

      It’s not about computers, it’s about a sociopath who refuses to follow the dictates of the criminal justice system.

      That he stirred a shit-pot while violating his parole is just evidence in the crime of parole violation.

    6. As Cory has pointed out – just try not using a computer these days.  Drive a car?  Using a computer.  Make a phone call?  Using a computer.  Even if you scour garage sales for a pre-computerized phone, you can’t do any business over the phone without pressing 1 for English, then 2 for account inquiries – using a computer.  Microwave some leftovers?  Using a computer.  Turn on the furnace?  Using a computer.  Multimeter, wristwatch, pop machine, card lock, subway ticket machine, ATM, stereo, TV, PVR, assembly line robot?  All computers.

      Granted, most parole officers wouldn’t be so arseholish as to count most of those activities as parole violations – but we shouldn’t have to count on that.  The parole condition of not using a computer has become practically impossible.

      On a more general front, I have a problem with parole violations being something for which you can be given additional sentences, beyond the end of your original sentence – if you are convicted of doing something illegal, and sentenced to 3 years, then it seems very perverse to have a system let you out at the 2 year mark, but make you promise to avoid using a computer, drinking alcohol, or picking your nose while driving for the next year.  Then to be able to pick you up at 2 years 11 months, and put you back in prison for another 2 years, for doing perfectly legal things, seems monstrously wrong.

      The most they should be able to do, as long as your actions are legal but merely against your parole conditions, is revoke your parole up to the end of your original sentence.

      Edit” Disqus, Y U hate line breaks?

  3. Could anyone possibly believe this joker wasn’t found and arrested as a result of special attention and pressure from a federal/executive level? Of course this guy deserves to be arrested, but anyone who can’t see the hand of an apologetic and embarrassed administration scrambling to throw a bone to the rioting zealots and their enabling governments doesn’t live in the real world.

    1.  “enabling governments”

      I’d reckon that most of the angry people are just as angry at their own governments as they are about Western ones.

      1.  Perhaps in some cases; but when for example Pakistan officially sanctions a day of protest about this video, that is going to be viewed as welcome support and validation by the protesters, and places the Pakistani government in a position of endorsement of the arrogant and hate-filled diatribes of the protesters.

        1.  Perhaps we should stop meddling in Pakistani affairs militarily and monetarily and then we can stand off and criticize without looking like hypocrites.

          1. Firstly, Pakistan does what is in their best interest, and frankly couldn’t care less about our opinion unless and until it potentially affects the billions of dollars we give them annually. So it doesn’t really matter to them in the least whether you, me or anyone else criticizes them or is subsequently viewed as hypocritical.

            Secondly, I don’t expect anything different from Pakistan, and I wasn’t actually criticizing Pakistan as much as I was commenting on our own government’s transparent and frantic attempt to send appeasement signals to Muslim-centric regimes.

          2.  Oh no, I get it.  Your comments obviously come less from a practical  place and more from an Islamophobic one.

  4. What if the rioters had inside information that one of people involved in the movie might be arrested anyway? The riot might have been timed for the purpose of looking effective.

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