A California man linked to an anti-Islam video that stoked violent protests across the Muslim world was ordered held without bond over accusations he violated his probation linked to a prior conviction for bank fraud.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was taken into custody on Thursday at an undisclosed location by US marshals and brought to court in downtown Los Angeles.
The 55-year-old has been under investigation by probation officials looking into whether he violated the terms of his 2011 release from prison while making the film.
He might face new charges that carry a maximum two-year prison term, and will remain behind bars until another hearing where a judge will rule on his case.
Nakoula was jailed in 2010 for federal check fraud and sentenced to 21 months in prison.
As a condition of his release, he was barred from accessing the internet or using aliases without the permission of a probation officer, court records show.
Prosecutor Robert Dugdale said Nakoula had allegedly made eight breaches, including making false statements to probation officers and using at least three different names.
Held without bail
Nakoula's attorney Steven Seiden sought to have the hearing closed and his client released on $10,000 bail. He argued Nakoula has checked in with his probation officer frequently and made no attempts to leave Southern California.
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Judge Suzanne Segal ruled that Nakoula, who has been hiding since protests erupted over his film, be detained without bond, saying he was a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Seiden was concerned that Nakoula would be in danger in federal prison because of Muslim inmates, but prosecutors said he likely would be placed in protective custody.
Concerns have been raised for Nakoula's safety due to the widespread anger his alleged video has provoked among Muslims, and his hastily-arranged court appearance was held under tight security.
The hearing was closed to the public, but journalists and anyone else interested was allowed to follow proceedings via videoconference from a separate building.
Nakoula wore beige pants and a collared shirt when he was led into the courtroom handcuffed and shackled. He appeared relaxed, smiling at one point before the hearing and conferring with his attorney.
Lawrence Rosenthal, a constitutional and criminal law professor at Chapman University School of Law in Orange, said it was "highly unusual" for a judge to order immediate detention on a probation violation for a nonviolent crime, but if there were questions about Nakoula's identity it was more likely.
Nakoula - allegedly the real identity behind the pseudonym "Sam Bacile", listed as the director of "Innocence of Muslims" - was briefly taken into custody earlier this month for questioning by his probation officer.
He was traced to a home address in Cerritos, south of Los Angeles, after international protests erupted against the 14-minute trailer video posted online.
Federal authorities then confirmed there was no "Bacile" and that Nakoula was behind the movie.
Nakoula, a Coptic Christian originally from Egypt, went into hiding after his role in producing the trailer was revealed.
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Before going into hiding, Nakoula had acknowledged to the AP news agency he was involved with the film, but said he only worked on logistics and management.
The trailer still can be found on YouTube. The Obama administration asked Google, YouTube's parent, to take down the video but the company has refused, saying it did not violate its content standards.
Nakoula's court appearance came a day after an actress involved in the video, Cindy Lee Garcia, filed a second lawsuit seeking to force YouTube and Google to pull the video trailer.
Garcia filed legal action in Los Angeles Superior Court last week, but a judge rejected it - and on Wednesday, she filed a new suit alleging breach of copyright in federal court in Santa Clarita, California.
The actress says she had believed to have signed up for a film called "Desert Warrior" set 2,000 years ago, and only realised her lines had been over-dubbed when the row with Muslim protests erupted this month.
Enraged Muslims have demanded punishment for Nakoula, and a Pakistani cabinet minister has offered a $100,000 bounty to anyone who kills him.
First Amendment advocates have defended Nakoula's right to make the film while condemning its content. And federal officials likely will face criticism from those who say Nakoula's free speech rights were trampled by his arrest on a probation violation.
The clip sparked a torrent of anti-American unrest in Egypt, Libya and dozens of other Muslim countries over the past two weeks, causing dozens of deaths, largely in Pakistan.