LOS ANGELES (AP) — An actress from Bakersfield who appears in the anti-Muslim film trailer that has sparked riots in the Middle East is suing the filmmaker for fraud and slander, and is asking a judge to order YouTube to take down the clip.
Cindy Lee Garcia's lawsuit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles claims the actress was duped by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man behind "Innocence of Muslims" who has been forced into hiding since its 14-minute trailer rose to prominence last week. She was unaware of the film's anti-Muslim content and that the pages of the script she received had no mention of the prophet Muhammad, according to her complaint.
Garcia told Eyewitness News in Bakersfield that she and her family are getting death threats. Family members in Bakersfield said they are frightened.
Reached by phone by Eyewitness News, Garcia wouldn't say exactly where she is, adding she is very worried.
In an on-camera interview last week with KBAK/KBFX Eyewitness News, Garcia said she was horrified by the violence that erupted after clips of the film were available online in the Middle East. She blamed the filmmaker for misleading her about the content of the movie.
"I think what he did to us was wrong, and perhaps we can all learn from this," Garcia said. "I don't know what I'm going to do." But, she has now decided to take action.
The lawsuit states Garcia responded to an ad and thought she was appearing in an ancient Egyptian adventure film. Dialogue in the amateurish film was later dubbed to include anti-Islamic messages and to portray Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester.
Garcia told Eyewitness News she had no idea the dialogue in the film had been altered, until she looked for a clip online. At that point, she called the filmmaker, a man she knew as Sam Bacile.
"I said, 'What are you doing? Why did you do this?'" she related. "He said, 'I did this because I'm tired of radical Muslims killing people.' That's what he said."
"The film is vile and reprehensible," Garcia's attorney, M. Cris Armenta, wrote in the lawsuit document.
"This lawsuit is not an attack on the First Amendment nor on the right of Americans to say what they think, but does request that the offending content be removed from the Internet," the complaint states. Garcia's attorneys plan to seek an injunction against the film Thursday in a Los Angeles court.
YouTube has refused Garcia's requests to remove the film, according to the lawsuit. The complaint contends that keeping it online violates her right of publicity, invades her privacy rights and the post-filming dialogue changes cast her in a false light. "(Garcia) had a legally protected interest in her privacy and the right to be free from having hateful words put in her mouth or being depicted as a bigot," the lawsuit states.
Garcia has received death threats since the trailer began drawing attention, and her suit states she no longer is able to visit her grandchildren as a result. It has also harmed her reputation and caused "shame, mortification, and hurt feelings" and will impact her ability to get future acting roles, the suit states.
An email sent to Google seeking comment was not immediately returned. The search giant owns YouTube and has blocked users in Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt from viewing the "Innocence of Muslims" trailer. It has also blocked the video from being viewed in Indonesia and India because it violates laws in those countries.
A man who answered the phone at the law offices of Steven Seiden, who represents Nakoula on any criminal repercussions he may face, declined comment. He said Seiden does not represent Nakoula, who is on probation for a bank fraud case in which he opened 600 fraudulent credit accounts, in civil matters.
According to the terms of his probation, Nakoula was allowed to only access website with the permission of probation officials and for work purposes. It is unclear who uploaded the film to the site.
The lawsuit also names Bacile, an alias that Nakoula gave to The Associated Press after the trailer was linked to protests that have since killed at least 30 people in seven countries, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
Garcia said with threats against her continuing, she's worried about her safety and the well-being of her loved ones. She wants the violence to end.
"I would never ever do anything to hurt a soul on this Earth," Garcia told Eyewitness News last week. "I don't believe violence is ever the answer."