At the height of the furor over the ???Innocence of Muslims??? YouTube video, its producer, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, was stuffed into a cop car by a huge swarm of police officers, with his face obscured by a towel, producing an image that raised the hackles of free-speech champions across the world.
We were quickly assured this was not actually a politically-motivated arrest of Nakoula ??? he was merely being transported to a meeting with the authorities, to discuss possible violations of the terms of his probation. He had been busted in 2010 for check kiting, receiving a 21-month prison sentence. Among the terms of his probation were injunctions against using an alias, and using the Internet without approval from his probation officer. He made extensive use of the alias ???Sam Bacile??? during the production of ???Innocence of Muslims,??? and of course uploaded a few minutes of footage ??? the only part of his movie anyone has seen ??? to YouTube.
Nakoula walked out of that earlier meeting??? but now he has been arrested, and dragged into U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The Smoking Gun reports on the event:
Citing Nakoula???s ???lengthy pattern of deception,??? a federal magistrate this afternoon ordered him held without bond for alleged probation violations, including making false statements to his probation officer and using aliases. The judge rejected a plea from Nakoula???s lawyer, who argued that the convicted felon???s life would be in danger at an L.A. lockup due to the facility’s large population of Muslim inmates. Nakoula will remain in custody in advance of a probation revocation hearing, the date for which has yet to be scheduled.
???He 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. Nakoula will remain behind bars until another hearing where a judge will rule if he broke the terms of his probation,??? explains NBC News.
An unnamed federal law enforcement official told NBC, ???This is not an investigation of the film,??? and emphasized the prosecution was not intended to suppress Nakoula???s free speech rights.
Obviously, we???re very sensitive to the appearance of criminal law being used to suppress free speech, as a tool of appeasement. At the same time, free speech issues cannot become a shield against all legal prosecution against a controversial figure. Some observers say that the degree of energy put into investigating and punishing Nakoula???s parole violations is unusual, and wonder if he would have been so vigorously pursued absent the global controversy over his YouTube video.
If they throw him into general population, we???ll be asking those questions posthumously.