Daniel Snay, Timothy Elliott, Thomas Nierman and Nakoula Basseley Nakoula lived for days, weeks, months or perhaps even years in violation of the terms of the terms of their probation, until chance happenings put them in the spotlight.
In 1974 and again in 1976, Daniel Snay committed two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 years of age. In 1987, he committed an additional four counts of indecent assault and battery on a person aged 14 or older. Over the next 20 years, Mr. Snay repaid his debt to society and stayed out of any further trouble. In 2008, he was gainfully employed as a truck driver in Mendon, Massachusetts, when he “won $10 Million in the Massachusetts Billion Dollar Blockbuster lottery.” At the time he collected the first installment of the prize, it was discovered that he had failed to properly update his address, putting him in a status of “Not in Compliance-Failure to Confirm Address.” Had Mr. Snay never won the lottery, it is likely that his probation violation would never have been discovered.
Timothy Elliott also won the lottery in Massachusetts, purchasing his winning ticket in November 2007 while on probation for “unarmed bank robbery.” The terms of his probation required that he abstain from gambling. Had he not won the lottery, it would likely have never been discovered that he was playing. Mr. Elliott’s story did not end too badly, as he was allowed to keep the $1,000,000 jackpot and was only “ordered to retroactively pay monthly probation supervision fees of $65.”
Thomas Nierman was in a situation similar to Daniel Snay, a sex offender who had failed to keep his address up to date, when he appeared on a local news broadcast in Detroit in July 2012 to describe the beating he had received at the hands of homophobic thugs. Unfortunately for him, several viewers, including state police, recognized Mr. Nierman and he was quickly arrested for violating his probation. It is very unfortunate that Mr. Nierman was himself the victim of a crime, and even more unfortunate for him that this brought his failure to register his new address to the attention of law enforcement.
Mr. Nakoula, after committing bank fraud in 2009, was released on probation in June 2011. Some of the terms of his probation included not using aliases and not using devices capable of accessing the internet. On September 11, 2012, a “planned” and “complex attack” was executed against the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, eventually resulting in four deaths, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Rather than acknowledging the nature of the attack, anti-US sentiments were blamed on an obscure film, only available on YouTube, called Innocence of Muslims, which has since been attributed to Mr. Nakoula. Unfortunately, Mr. Nakoula’s work on the film was done under one or more aliases, thus violating the terms of his probation.
The Moral of the Story
Although many have been quick to assume the US government is attempting to suppress Mr. Nakoula’s first amendment rights by arresting him for violating the terms of his probation as a proxy for arresting him for blasphemy, he is not alone in having such a thing happen to him. When a person is on probation and living outside the terms of that probation, he or she lives with the understanding that any chance occurrence can bring them to the attention of law enforcement. And just like Colonel Sanders’ big head and tiny body, what has been seen cannot be unseen, no matter how much we wish it were so: