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:

Zimmerman v. Fulton et al C… by Doug Mataconis on Scribd

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Race and Politics, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    Racist dirtbag who shot a kid for walking while black sues what?

  2. Kylopod says:

    From Wikipedia:

    In addition to his numerous lawsuits against the Clinton Administration, which led him to be called a “Clinton nemesis” Klayman has filed a number of lawsuits against political figures and governmental agencies. Klayman’s goal in initiating the lawsuits is often to obtain information through the discovery process, rather than winning the lawsuit. Most cases brought by Judicial Watch or Klayman himself fail.

    He sounds a bit like Andy Martin, a lunatic conspiracy theorist (originator of the claim that Obama is a Muslim) who has actually been denied a license to practice law due to the ridiculous number of frivolous lawsuits he has brought.

  3. Kit says:

    Just in case anyone might harbor the slightest doubt about Zimmermann, 15 minutes spent reading his Wikipedia page should put that to rest.

  4. Kathy says:

    This is beyond sick. I hope he gets sued for defamation.

  5. MarkedMan says:

    Can the court award costs and penalties to the defendants in cases like this?

  6. Slugger says:

    Totally not a lawyer here. I understand the idea of seeking compensation for damages, but don’t you have to show that you have some damage? When you ask for $100 million, it presumes that you had some thing worth that much in my mind. If some kids playing catch break my window, I can’t sue their parents for some huge sum. I doubt that most citizens have more than a million dollars of reputation.
    I do support the right to go to court of everyone, but I don’t understand how this one works.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    That is one damned expensive bullet the dastardly evil Trayvon Martin stole from the righteous, law abiding, Christian George Zimmerman.

  8. Hal_10000 says:

    Two things are true here:

    1) The media did leave out a lot of details of the case in the immediate aftermath. Testimony and evidence presented at trial did show that Martin was on top of Zimmerman, bashing his head into the sidewalk when the fatal shot was fired. While one can argue that Zimmerman created the situation, no jury would convict of murder in that circumstance (possibly manslaughter if they thought his actions led to the shooting).

    2) Zimmerman has behaved like an absolute garbage person since then, even trying to auction off the gun he used to kill Trayvon. And this is the latest in his saga as a garbage person, filing a crazed junk lawsuit against a wounded family because he doesn’t like media portrayals of him. He will lose and badly. And deserves to.

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  9. mattbernius says:

    @Hal_10000:
    To your point 1, the biggest issue from the start with this situation is that it ultimately was a “he said/he said” with only one party being left alive to be able to tell the story.

    What is clear is that things had escalated to a point where both parties were prepared to use deadly (or potentially deadly*) force. The unfortunate thing is we’ll never know what specifically led up to that moment (and to your point “Zimmerman has behaved like an absolute garbage person since then” kinda leads one to wonder how much his eyewitness testimony should have been trusted in this situation).

    I think there is a real possibility where this is a situation where both individuals felt sufficiently threatened by each other that both felt they were acting in self defense.

    I do agree that the facts at hand made it highly unlikely that anything above manslaughter wouldn’t have been appropriate.

    * – I’m referring to what Martin was doing in this case. I still, honestly, question the “bashing” his head on the ground. I have little doubt that’s what Zimmerman felt. Based on his wounds/abrasions on the back of his head, they seemed much more consistent with being hit in the face and having secondary ground impact rather than someone grabbing his head and repeatedly bashing it into the ground. Admittedly this may seem like a distinction without a difference (and yes I was the one who just posted about how dumb it is to be a pendent around choke vs strangle), but I do think it gets to a difference in *intent.* All that said, punching someone who is grounded on hard pavement is essentially deadly force (though I’d consider it of a different order than deploying a gun).

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  10. gVOR08 says:

    Klayman, and the organizations he founded, Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch, are examples of what’s wrong in the country. Apparently with only a minimal grasp of reality you can make a living, even prosper, grifting off conservatives.

    No news source should mention this case without featuring Klayman’s history of frivolous lawsuits. And Zimmerman’s post-trial sleaziness. Klayman’s apparently been subject to some censure by the legal system, but needs to be effectively dealt with. As does the whole army of grifters presenting themselves as conservative advocacy groups.

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  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Hal_10000: If Martin had pulled a gun and shot his armed stalker, do you think he would have been found not guilty?

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  12. Mikey says:

    @gVOR08:

    Apparently with only a minimal grasp of reality you can make a living, even prosper, grifting off conservatives.

    A minimal grasp of reality is a non-negotiable requirement.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    Zimmerman has behaved like an absolute garbage person since then…

    Obviously Zimmerman was an absolute garbage person well before then…otherwise, none of this would have happened in the first place…

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  14. Blue Galangal says:

    @An Interested Party: Told BY THE POLICE to remain in his car, what did Zimmerman do?

    Got out of his car with a firearm and stalked a kid, resulting in that kid’s death. Zimmerman was only in a dangerous situation because he chose to create one.

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  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    It seems that Zimmerman expected to be lionized by a segment of society, while the reality is that most of the right, even far right, are uncomfortable with what occurred. Leaving him only support from the crazies.

  16. Matt says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Testimony and evidence presented at trial did show that Martin was on top of Zimmerman, bashing his head into the sidewalk when the fatal shot was fired.

    Testimony provided by Zimmerman AKA the guy you called “an absolute garbage person” a mere paragraph later. Excuse me if I don’t believe the testimony of “absolute garbage”. The pictures presented at the trial do NOT look like someone who was getting their head “bashed in” and if you want I can provide pictures of people after they experienced a real sidewalk head bashing. Could Zimmerman’s head of bounced off the sidewalk after being punched? Sure it’s entirely possible but there was no “head bashing” going on or the damage would of been far more extensive. As it is he had a mild abrasion.

    I have no sympathy for the armed guy who went against police orders and stalked a young man for no valid reason. Zimmerman being “tired of them getting away with this” is not a valid reason it’s pure racist bullshit (all blacks are the same). Zimmerman might of felt his life was in danger but he was solely responsible for him getting there to that point.

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  17. Hal_10000 says:

    @Matt:

    Testimony from the other witnesses as well as the injuries to Zimmerman’s face and head. I will agree we don’t know what caused the confrontation. But to convict him of murder, you would have to assume that he instigated the fight. The jury didn’t find enough evidence to convict on that.

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  18. An Interested Party says:

    I have no sympathy for the armed guy who went against police orders and stalked a young man for no valid reason.

    Oh come now, of course there was a very valid reason…just ask an average Trumpist…

  19. mike shupp says:

    @Slugger: That Kentucky kid — Nick Sandmann — who got into a staring match with an Indian in Washington DC about a year back has filed 250 million dollar law suits against The Washington Post, CNN, and one of the other networks for the damage they did to his reputation. Courts have ruled that the cases can move forward, which makes a number of conservatives deliriously happy.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    Didn’t conservatives used to be for “tort reform”? Much like the scorn given by conservatives to so-called activist judges, similar behavior between those on the right and the left is only deemed inappropriate when those on the left practice it…

  21. Matt says:

    @Hal_10000: That’s interesting because the only one to state they directly witnessed it at the trial was Zimmerman. Everyone else merely heard some of the commotion. So who was this witness? As for the injuries they were minor abrasions. Cuts on the head bleed a lot and his head wasn’t even bleeding much. Seriously if you think this is getting his head bashed in then you’ve never experienced or witnessed a real head bashing.
    https://www.sites.google.com/site/paulroebling/_/rsrc/1375030436412/home/the-george-zimmerman-trayvon-martin-case/George%20Zimmerman%20Injuries.jpg

    Those are mild abrasions and I’ve had worse as a kid falling over onto a side walk.. He did clearly get punched in the nose which could easily of caused his head to bounce of the concrete which would of caused that tiny abrasion in the center of the back of head.

    I lived in Sanford for a while and I can tell you as a white man that the good ol boys was strong in the police force there.

    We know what caused that confrontation it was an armed man stalking a teenager at night who was just trying to get home after buying some snacks…

  22. Blob says:
  23. mike shupp says:

    @Blob: Note that “The cases against CNN and NBC remain pending as of Friday afternoon.”

    The irony is that by bringing these lawsuits Sandmann has done more to establish himself in the public eye as a twit than ever would have been accomplished by the original 15-minutes-of-fame reportage. Oh well.