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'Innocence of Muslims' Filmmaker Arrested

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on September 27, 2012 6:05 PM

The man behind "The Innocence of Muslims," the online video that set off weeks of violent protests around the world, has been arrested for violating his probation, federal prosecutors say.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, who lived in Cerritos, Calif., before going into hiding, was set to appear in federal court Thursday afternoon, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Nakoula was convicted in 2010 of charges including bank fraud and identity theft, and spent about a year in federal prison. But he was still under probation from that conviction, which restricted his computer and Internet use.

Those restrictions likely led to Nakoula's arrest.

Under the terms of his probation, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula had to get his probation officer's permission before owning or using a device that could access the Internet, the LA Times reports.

Nakoula is suspected of using a fake name, Sam Bacile, under whose account the "Innocence of Muslims" film trailer was uploaded to YouTube.

If Nakoula indeed uploaded the video without his probation officer's permission, a judge could find that to be a blatant probation violation. If so, Nakoula could potentially be thrown behind bars again, or his probation may be extended.

But even if Nakoula didn't upload the video himself -- perhaps he got someone else to do it for him -- he could still face legal consequences. That's because his probation also prohibited him from getting others to go online on his behalf, according to the Times.

Another legal issue involves Nakoula's conviction on bank fraud charges, one former federal prosecutor told the Associated Press. In general, terms of probation must be related to the crime. In Nakoula's case, his lawyers may try to argue that the "Innocence" movie has nothing to do with his bank fraud conviction, and thus should have nothing to do with his probation.

While probation terms that prohibit Internet access may seem excessive, courts generally have broad discretion in coming up with probation conditions that fit a person's crime. For example, Internet-use restrictions are becoming increasingly common for convicted sex offenders.

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