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Could man linked with anti-Islam film be in trouble with the law? (+video)

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man at the center of the controversy over an anti-Islam film, is on probation and has been questioned by federal officials. It is unclear whether he violated the terms of his parole, but if he did, he could face jail.

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Prominent American anti-Islamic activist Joseph Nassralla also made a statement Wednesday alleging that Nakoula had changed the film's content without his knowledge. Nassralla, the founder of a group called Media for Christ, added that he later found out that Nakoula – using the name Sam Bacile – had used Media for Christ's name without his permission to get an official permit for making the film, according to Reuters.

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As for Nakoula's probation status, Internet-use conditions are reasonably common in fraud cases, says Caleb Mason, a professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles.

“There could be a variety of theories under which using false pretenses to get valuable consideration from someone – say, money or services – would constitute fraud, which would be a crime and thus a violation,” he adds.

And legal experts say probation judges are not to be trifled with.

“My view is that judges revoke probation when they're irritated by the probationer, or feel tricked or lied to,” says Joel Jacobsen, assistant attorney general, criminal appeals division for New Mexico. “No one likes an ingrate, and judges, because of their position, are particularly sensitive to intimations of disrespect.”

He says the US Department of Justice “tends to be highly bureaucratic at the best of times, and I'd have to believe that decisions regarding this case will exclusively be made in Washington, and the legal niceties will be the least of the discussion.”

The Justice Department will want to be deliberate, though, says Jesse Choper, a constitutional scholar at the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. “They need to make sure they have a strong case and are not just doing it under political pressure,” he says. “They don’t want to bring him in and then have him released on some technicality.”

In many cases, parole violations can be straightforward.

“Parole violations do not require a trial in court,” says Richard Moran, a criminologist at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. “Certainly not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

And if a probationer is taken back into custody?

“The judge can revoke his probation, impose other terms, or send him back to prison and say, 'You won’t have to worry about your mortgage for a couple of years, we’ve got your living quarters covered,' ” says Mr. Takajian.


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