George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who rose to infamy after fatally shooting an unarmed Trayvon Martin in 2012, is now suing the slain teen’s family, among mothers, in a lawsuit seeking millions in damages.
News of the complaint broke Wednesday after Zimmerman’s legal team sent a copy of the suit to local media, according to the Miami Herald. His lawyer, legal bigwig Larry Klayman, confirmed the suit was filed in Polk County, Florida, this week.
Zimmerman, 36, is seeking an excess of $100,000 in the case, which accuses Martin’s family, prosecutors and several others of defamation, abuse of civil process and conspiracy. Moreover, suit claims the teen’s family engineered false testimony and alleges all defendants have “have worked in concert to deprive Zimmerman of his constitutional and other legal rights.”
The suit takes direct aim at Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, who became a champion and national advocate for mitigating gun violence in the wake of her son’s shooting death, for which Zimmerman was acquitted in 2013. The complaint also names Rachel Jeantel, a friend of Martin’s who testified at Zimmerman’s trial.
The plaintiff claims Jeantel was brought on as a “fake witness” and that she lied about being Martin’s girlfriend, as well as speaking with the victim in the moments leading up to the fatal shooting.
“Jeantel lied repeatedly about having a relationship with Trayvon, about being on the phone with Trayvon in the days and minutes up to his death, and lied about everything she claimed to have heard over the phone in the hours and minutes prior to Trayvon’s death,” lawyers wrote in the lawsuit, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
“Defendant Jeantel also lied about her identity, falsely claiming her nickname to be ‘Diamond Eugene,’” it continued.
Zimmerman’s team is also suing civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump and publishing house Harper Collins for defamation over the October release of Crump’s book, “Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People.”
Crump, who represented the Martin family, addressed the complaint in a statement Wednesday, saying in part: “I have every confidence that this unfounded and reckless lawsuit will be revealed for what it is — another failed attempt to defend the indefensible [and] a shameless attempt to profit off the lives and grief of others.”
A copy of the suit was also sent to right-wing propagandist Joel Gilbert, director of a forthcoming so-called documentary on the Martin case titled, “The Trayvon Hoax.” Gilbert — previously known for producing pieces attacking former President Barack Obama in films with titles like “Dreams From My Real Father” — had planned a press conference and screening of the film in Coral Gables this week but it was abruptly canceled amid news of Zimmerman’s complaint.
“Coral Gables Art Cinema was not aware of all of the details surrounding this event,” the theater wrote in a Twitter post announcing the canceled showing.
Martin, 17, was visiting his father in Sanford, Florida when he encountered Zimmerman, who said the Black teen looked “suspicious,” on his way back from a store. Despite an emergency dispatcher’s instructions not to follow him, Zimmerman pursued Martin anyway and the two got into a fight.
Zimmerman insists he shot the teen in self defense, however, Martin had no weapon and was only carrying a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. His death sparked protests across the country and was a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Zimmerman’s team insists he’s the victim, saying the criminal charges against him caused the Florida man to suffer “great mental anguish, resulting in Zimmerman requiring professional treatment by psychologists for anxiety, depression, insomnia, and weight gain.” The plaintiff is allegedly also in treatment for PTSD, his lawyer alleged.
“It was a complete travesty of justice which destroyed my client’s life,” Klayman argued. “People are destroyed and smeared and they have to start fighting back.”