The man behind an anti-Muslim film that led to violence in many parts of the Middle East was sentenced to a year in federal prison for probation violations in an unrelated matter, then issued a provocative statement through his attorney.
The sentence on Wednesday was the result of a plea bargain between lawyers for Mark Bassely Youssef and federal prosecutors. Youssef admitted in open court that he had used several false names in violation of his probation order and obtained a driver’s license under a false name. He was on probation for a bank fraud case.
Shortly after Youssef left the courtroom, Steven Seiden, his lawyer, came to the front steps of the courthouse and told reporters his client wanted to send a message.
“The one thing he wanted me to tell all of you is [US] President [Barack] Obama may have gotten Osama bin Laden, but he didn’t kill the ideology,” Seiden said.
Asked what that meant, Seiden said: “I didn’t ask him, and I don’t know.”
US District Court Judge Christina Snyder accepted the plea agreement and immediately sentenced 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 the plea deal, which also included more probation time.
All parties agreed that none of the violations had to do with the content of Innocence of Muslims, a film that depicts the Prophet Mohammed as a religious fraud, pedophile and womanizer.
However, US Assistant Attorney Robert Dugdale argued that Youssef’s lies about his identity have caused harm to others, including the film’s cast and crew. Deadly violence related to the film broke out on Sept. 11 and spread to many parts of the Middle East.
“They had no idea he was a recently released felon,” Dugdale said on Wednesday. “Had they known that, they might have had second thoughts” about being part of the film.
He said they have had death threats and feel their careers have been ruined.
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.
Enraged Muslims had demanded severe punishment for Youssef, with a Pakistani Cabinet minister even offering US$100,000 to anyone who kills him.