Netflix Sued by Prison Group Over ‘Defamatory’ Depiction in ‘Messiah’ Series

GEO Group accuses streamer of “falsely” depicting its prisons as “overcrowded”

Last Updated: May 27, 2020 @ 1:44 PM

Netflix is being sued by GEO Group, a real estate investment trust, over what it calls “defamatory” depictions of its private prisons in the streamer’s “Messiah” series.

The thriller series follows a mysterious messianic figure, Al Massih (Mehdi Dehbi), who attracts suspicion from the CIA after he begins to gain a large global following by performing miracles. In episodes three and four, the character is detained in a Texas immigration facility in which certain shots depict the GEO Group logo.

In the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Florida district court, accuses Netflix of misappropriating the group’s trademarks on its immigrant detention facility, guards and vehicles, therefore falsely associating it with the production’s depictions of immigrants crowded into rooms without proper care.

“Unlike in ‘Messiah,’ GEO does not house people in overcrowded rooms with chain-link cages at its Facilities, but provides beds, bedding, air conditioning, indoor and outdoor recreational spaces, soccer fields, classrooms, libraries, and other amenities that rebut Messiah’s defamatory falsehoods,” the suit states.

Reps for Netflix declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday.

The suit also shows side-by-side color photos of GEO Group’s facilities next to those depicted in “Messiah,” showing the former’s soccer fields, libraries, beds and classrooms next to Netflix stills of fictional inmates sleeping in on floors in one large room.

“Netflix’s use of the GEO Trademarks served no purpose other than to harm GEO’s good will and reputation,” the suit adds. “Because GEO’s Facilities do not resemble the facilities depicted in ‘Messiah,’ use of the GEO Trademarks does not further a goal of realism.”

“Messiah” premiered in January of this year, but was canceled in March after one season.

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