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PICKET: Calif. U.S. Atty.'s odd handling of anti-Muslim filmmaker case

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California handling of the individual Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (AKA Mark Basseley Yousef)who the Obama administration initially and falsely blamed for inciting the terrorist attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, an attack that took the lives of four Americans—including Ambassador Chris Stevens, is odd to say the least.

Mr. Yousef was arrested for violating the terms of his probation on a 2010 bank fraud conviction. He was prohibited from using computers and the internet without supervision. Apparently, Yousef was not the only person involved in the making of the film. It is still unclear how exactly Mr. Yousef contributed his time and talents to the film. 

A source familiar with the case says that Mr. Yousef only wrote the script for the obscure online video “The Innocence of Muslims” and that Mr. Yousef did not direct the film—SAG director Alan Roberts did. NPR detailed more of the charges surrounding the case against Mr. Yousef: 

Prosecutors noted Mr. Youssef had eight probation violations, including lying to his probation officers and using aliases. He could face new charges that carry a maximum two-year prison term.

After his 2010 conviction, Youssef 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, though prosecutors said none of the violations involved the Internet. He also wasn’t supposed to use any name other than his true legal name without the prior written approval of his probation officer. Three names, however, have been associated with Youssef this month alone.

The movie was made last year by a man who called himself Sam Bacile. After the violence erupted, a man who identified himself as Bacile spoke to media outlets including The Associated Press, took credit for the film and said it was meant to portray the truth about Muhammad and Islam, which he called a cancer.

The next day, the AP determined there was no Bacile and linked the identity to Nakoula Nakoula, a former gas station owner with a drug conviction and a history of using aliases. Federal authorities later confirmed there was no Bacile and that Nakoula was behind the movie.

Some of the false statements in Mr. Youssef’s alleged probation violations had to do with the film, Dugdale said. Youssef told probation officials his role was just writing the script, and denied going by the name Sam Bacile in connection with the film, Dugdale said.

Before going into hiding, Mr. Youssef acknowledged to the AP that he was involved with the film but said he only worked on logistics and management.

As I pointed out in my previous piece on this issue, Mr. Yousef has been detained for almost one month in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center and is being held without bond. His next court date, an evidentiary hearing, is on November 9—how politically convenient given that it is three days after the presidential election.

What is curious, though, is the fact that the original Asst. U.S. Atty. Jennifer Williams, who helped prosecute Mr. Yousef’s bank fraud conviction, is not the attorney Mr. Yousef’s lawyers would eventually deal with. Mr. Yousef’s probation violation case, for no explained reason, was kicked up to Chief Criminal Division prosecutor Asst. U.S. Atty. Robert Dugdale. Dugdale is second in the chain of command below U.S. Atty. Andre Birotte of the Central District of California.

California’s Central District office spokesman Thom Mrozek wrote in an e-mail that AUSA Williams “was one of at least two prosecutors who worked on that [bank fraud] case. She only handled the latter stages of the case, including the sentencing.”

When I pointed out that AUSA Dugdale was not part of the team of attorneys who did prosecute Yousef’s case and asked why the case was kicked up the chain to AUSA Dugdale, Mr. Mrozek responded, “I don’t comment on staffing decisions.” 

It should not be forgotten that Mr. Yousef was also a federal snitch. One must wonder if this case has anything to do with the U.S. Attorney’s office unusual silence and staff shifts with Mr. Yousef’s current case. Unfortunately, the US Attorney’s Office California’s Central District is not talking much.  

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