Netflix asked a federal court on Thursday to block a Texas prosecutor from pursuing child pornography charges against the streaming service for distributing the 2020 French film “Cuties.”
Lucas Babin, the elected district attorney in Tyler County, Texas, indicted Netflix in September 2020, alleging that the film violates a state law against the “lewd exhibition” of children. The film portrays a children’s dance troupe, and sparked controversy in the U.S. after its release due to its suggestive choreography.
Netflix has sought to have the case thrown out, arguing that the statute violates the First Amendment.
A hearing was initially set on that motion for Thursday. But in a procedural move on the eve of the hearing, Babin dropped the original indictment and brought four new indictments under a different statute, alleging that the film violates the Texas state law against child pornography.
In response, Netflix filed a request for an injunction in federal court, arguing that Babin has abused his office in order to deprive Netflix of its First Amendment rights.
“Without the Court’s intervention, Netflix will suffer irreparable harm by being forced to continue playing Babin’s game in state court and defending itself against even more baseless charges,” the attorneys for Netflix argued.
A hearing is expected to be held on Friday at a federal courthouse in Beaumont, Texas.
Babin is the son of U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, and is also a former model and actor who portrayed Spider, the shirtless rocker in the 2003 film “School of Rock” starring Jack Black.
Update, 3 p.m. Friday. The Texas Attorney General’s Office filed a response on Babin’s behalf on Friday. The state argued that Netflix cannot go to federal court until the prosecution is concluded, and that to do so beforehand would encroach on the state’s authority. The state also argued that Babin has prosecutorial immunity from civil rights lawsuits.
“Mr. Babin strongly denies Netflix’s allegations that he acted in bad faith, with malice, or otherwise acted improperly,” the state argues.
The parties appeared before U.S. District Judge Michael J. Truncale in Beaumont on Friday. A hearing on the injunction request was set for June 14.