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Actress sues YouTube, 'Innocence of Muslims' producer

Cindy Lee Garcia says she received death threats after being tricked into appearing in an anti-Islamic film that has touched off riots.

September 20, 2012|By John Horn and Rebecca Keegan, Los Angeles Times

An actress who starred in "Innocence of Muslims" has sued the film's producer and YouTube, charging that clips from the controversial anti-Islam movie have lead to death threats against her.

In a complaint filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court that alleges fraud, slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress, Cindy Lee Garcia said that after scenes from "Innocence of Muslims" posted on YouTube sparked Middle East protests last week, she was subjected to "credible death threats" and was no longer permitted to provide child care for her grandchildren.

M. Cris Armenta, the lawyer representing the actress in the matter, said she would ask the judge assigned to the case to order YouTube to remove the video immediately. "This is not a 1st Amendment issue," Armenta said. "This is an invasion of privacy issue."

Garcia said in her legal action that she was tricked into working in the film. Filmmaker Sam Bacile — the name appears to be a pseudonym for Nakoula Basseley Nakoula — allegedly told Garcia that he was making a movie called "Desert Warrior" that was "an adventure film ... about ancient Egyptians" and that there would be neither "references made to religion nor was there any sexual content" of which she was aware.

After the clips began circulating, the lawsuit says, Garcia was informed that "she was no longer permitted to see her grandchildren, whom she baby-sat regularly." Furthermore, the complaint says, Garcia "was fired from her job as a direct result of the film, in as much as she is now considered a target and the safety of those in her presence cannot be guaranteed." Armenta said Garcia works as an actor and in child care.

The lawyer said Garcia "wants to clear her name, get the content taken down and let the world know that she did not consent to have her image used in this way."

Clips from the film have triggered violent anti-American protests across the Muslim world and led to more than 17 deaths, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. This week, rioting spread to Australia and Pakistan.

A representative for Nakoula's criminal defense lawyer, Steven Seiden, said the firm was not handling civil litigation for him. A representative for YouTube, which is owned by Google, was not immediately available for comment.

john.horn@latimes.com

rebecca.keegan@latimes.com

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