TALLAHASSEE, Fla. George Zimmerman, the man acquitted of murder in the fatalshooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, is now suing the teens family, their Tallahassee attorney Ben Crump and others for $100 million, sayinghe has been victimized since the 2012 incident.
Filed in Polk County, where Zimmerman now lives, the 36-page lawsuit takes aim at Crumps recently published book, Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People. The suitclaims its publishing by HarperCollins perpetuates continued defamation of Zimmerman.
The complaintalso names several former prosecutors, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state of Florida as defendants.It additionally claims there was a conspiracy involving a fake witness that led to Zimmermans arrest and prosecution.
Larry Klayman,Zimmermans attorney and a well-knownconservative activist lawyer, said his client regularly faces death threats, gave up career aspirations, struggles to find work and suffers from PTSD in the fallout from the incident.
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More than seven years since the shooting, Crumps book published in October continues to defame Zimmerman by implicating him in the "genocide of colored people," Klayman said.
Generally, defamation occurs whena false statement of fact damages someone'sreputation. It's usually harder for public figures to win damages, however, than private citizens.
Its a shame (Trayvon Martin) died but my client was not responsible for it. He was acquitted," Klayman said in an interview."You dont keep beating up on the guy for fun and profit.
And you dont make your reputation on the back of my client George Zimmerman. Thats outrageous, abhorrent and disgusting.
Despite the verdict, the incident ignited a powder keg of racial tension across the country, sparking outrage and protests.Klayman said he asked Crump to remove the book from sale.
Although Klayman said he never responded, Crump issued a statement calling the lawsuit a frivolous grasp to justify Martins shooting.
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, Crump wrote.
This plaintiff continues to display a callous disregard for everyone but himself, re-victimizing individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions," he added. "He would have us believe that he is the innocent victim of a deep conspiracy, despite the complete lack of any credible evidence to support his outlandish claims.
Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford when he shot Martin on Feb. 26, 2012.
Zimmerman went against a 911 operators advice not to engage Martin, who was unarmed. He and the teen briefly fought while Zimmerman called out for help before the shooting, deemed self-defense by the Sanford Police Department.
Klayman said Zimmerman was attacked.He was acquittedof charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter a year later.
As to Crump, St. Petersburg attorney Matt Weidner, who handles defamation cases, said a main question will bedetermininghis intent in writing about Zimmerman.
"What is the purpose of those statements that are being made now all these years later; why is (Zimmerman) being resurrected now?" Weidner said in a phone interview.
"When you read the lawsuit, (it is)ascribing motives to the defendants offurther(ing) their own personal careers,"Weidner said.
With a series of arrests and faux pas, Zimmerman in recent years has become an even more controversial figure, including hisauctioningoff of the gun that killed Martin.
In 2013, he was arrested on aggravated assault charges when he was accused of pointing a shotgun at his girlfriend. Charges were dropped.
He was arrested again in 2015 when he was accused of throwing a wine bottle at his girlfriend. Charges again were dropped.
In 2015 he was injured in a shooting during a dispute with a motorist.
The lawsuit also claims a fake witness fabricated a storyline that led to Zimmermans unconstitutional prosecution.
It names Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martins mother,and father Tracy Martin, as well as several people connected to the case who served as witnesses.
Martins family members and others working together in concert, agreed to put on a false witness with a made-to-order false storyline to try and create probablecause to arrest Zimmerman, the lawsuit says.
Follow Karl Etters on Twitter: @KarlEtters