George Zimmerman Files Bizarre, Conspiracy Theory Laden, Lawsuit
George Zimmerman has filed a bizarre conspiracy theory-laden lawsuit against Trayvon Martin's family, prosecutors, and others.
George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in a criminal trial back in 2013 in the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Martin’s parents and other parties related to a documentary about the incident set to be released this month:
George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watchman who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012, filed a $100 million lawsuit Wednesday against the teen’s family, a publishing firm and a law enforcement agency for defamation and “malicious prosecution.”
The lead defendant is Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, who became one of the many pained faces of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of her son’s death. In a statement Wednesday afternoon, the family’s attorney called the lawsuit unfounded and a “shameless attempt to profit off the lives and grief of others.”
Zimmerman, tried and acquitted of homicide charges in 2013, now claims police and prosecutors conspired with Martin’s family to fabricate a narrative that cited what the Sanford, Fla., man alleges was false evidence.
Who fatally shot Martin was never in dispute. Zimmerman was patrolling a gated community on Feb. 26, 2012, when he reported Martin as suspicious. The teen, unarmed and wearing a hoodie, was returning from a store with Skittles and a drink. Zimmerman claimed at trial that he shot Martin in self-defense. Prosecutors and police argued the attack was unjustified
Zimmerman walked free of all charges.
The attorney who represented Martin’s family, Ben Crump, went on to write a book titled “Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People,” which was published by Harper Collins in October. Both Crump and the publisher are named defendants on the lawsuit. Joining them is Fulton, Martin’s father Tracy Martin, witnesses in the case, various members of the prosecution team and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The FDLE on Wednesday said it had not been served the lawsuit.
The allegations in Zimmerman’s lawsuit are based largely upon a book and film released in September that claims the Martin case was a “hoax” built upon “witness fraud.” The director of the film, Joel Gilbert, planned to screen the film Thursday at the Coral Gables Art Cinema to coincide with the lawsuit announcement.
But responding to criticism it faced for hosting the event, the theater tweeted Wednesday that it “was not aware of all the details surrounding this event and has made a decision to cancel it.”
The lawsuit claims all defendants “have worked in concert to deprive Zimmerman of his constitutional and other related legal rights.” Zimmerman is represented by Larry Klayman, an ardent conservative who founded the right-wing group Judicial Watch before splitting with them in 2003. Klayman did not return an email requesting comment Wednesday.
In a statement published Wednesday afternoon, Crump asserted that Zimmerman’s claims were “another failed attempt to defend the indefensible.”
“The plaintiff continues to display a callous disregard for everyone but himself, revictimizing individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions,” Crump wrote. “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.”
The theory behind the lawsuit and the aforementioned documentary are based on a bizarre conspiracy to put forward false witnesses designed to assure Zimmerman’s conviction:
In the lawsuit filed in Florida state court, Zimmerman and Klayman allege defamation by Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump. Their suit also names Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, along with Jeantel and Eugene. Also included: several Florida prosecutors, the state of Florida and its law enforcement department — and HarperCollins, which recently published Open Season, Crump’s book about violence toward black people.
Responding to the lawsuit, Crump’s office released a joint statement in which the attorney and Martin’s parents said:
“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.”
Accusing Zimmerman of “revictimizing individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions,” Crump, Fulton and Martin said there is no credible proof to back Zimmerman’s claims.
“This tale defies logic,” they said, “and it’s time to close the door on these baseless imaginings.”
Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch whose other clients include the conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, made headlines this year when a legal ethics panel recommended that he be suspended for misconduct regarding his actions toward a female client who had refused to enter into a romantic relationship with him.
The allegations contained in Zimmerman’s lawsuit, which was drafted by gadfly attorney Larry Klayman, are so bizarre that it’s hard to know where to begin. In order to believe what he’s alleging one has to believe that the Martin family, the police, and the prosecutors all managed to fool the court and the media into allowing a false witness claiming to have been Martin’s girlfriend testify in a manner designed to make Zimmerman appear guilty. We’re also supposed to believe that all of this happened during the course of a high-profile televised trial that was the focus of media attention from all around the world. The idea that such a conspiracy could have been pulled off without someone catching wind of it is simply impossible to believe. This is especially true given the fact that the prosecution had presented verified phone records that showed Martin had been on his phone talking to someone on a phone that belonged to the witness who testified at trial in the minutes prior to the altercation with Zimmerman. Was the phone company part of the conspiracy too? It’s all too bizarre to believe.
The fact that this is coming from Larry Klayman and Zimmerman is, of course, not hard to believe. In addition to being the founder of the far-right “watchdog” group Judicial Watch, which mysteriously never seems interested in investigating Republican Presidents or other politicians, Klayman has been an advocate of a number of other fever swamp conspiracy theories, including being one of the leading attorneys pushing the birther conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama’s birth. Given that, it’s no surprise that he’s behind this lawsuit as well. For his part Zimmerman has been in and out of the news many times since his 2013 acquittal, mostly due to run-ins with the law and other bizarre incidents. To say the least, it’s clear that he has not handled his post-acquittal life very well and this is just the latest example of that.
There are two legal issues that stand out in this case. The first is the question of the statute of limitations, which appears to be two years for each of the claims alleged in Zimmerman’s lawsuit. The problem here is obvious. To the extent that the claims are based on events that took place in the immediate aftermath of the incident, we’re talking about events that took place seven and a half years ago. To the extent the lawsuit is basing its claims on what happened at trial, we’re talking about events that took place six and a half years ago. Both are clearly outside the applicable statute of limitations, of course, which would mean that the case should be summarily dismissed.
To get around this argument, Zimmerman makes two allegations. First, he claims that he did not discover the truth about the alleged wrongdoing until the documentary mentioned in the blockquote above was released in September. Even if this is true, though, there does not appear to me to be a discovery rule exception to the statute of limitations in Florida, so it’s unclear what relevance that has to the case. Second, the lawsuit alleges that the alleged defamatory statements were repeated in a new book written by Benjamin Crump. the attorney who has represented the Martin family and, since the trial, has become a national figure on issues such as police violence against African-Americans. That book was published in October of this year. While this may mean that the case against Crump would continue past the preliminary phase, it does nothing for the claims against the other Defendants. In any case, we can expect these issues will be a significant part of the initial pleading in the case.
The second legal issue is the question of damages. Given the fact that Zimmerman was acquitted, it’s hard to see how his claims related to the charges against him and the criminal trial can survive even if Zimmerman could somehow prove they are true. Additionally, the fact that Zimmerman has not exactly been a model citizen since being acquited makes one wonder how his reputation can even be damaged at this point. If the case makes it past the preliminary phase, this will be a significant issue.
Based on all of this, it’s hard to see this lawsuit getting very far. Nonetheless, here’s the Complaint for those interested: