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, Florida, 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 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, will stage a screening of the film Thursday to coincide with the lawsuit announcement.
The lawsuit claims all defendants ‘‘have worked in concert to deprive Zimmerman of his constitutional and other related legal rights.’’
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.’’
Crump added: ‘‘This tale defies all logic, and it’s time to close the door on these baseless imaginings.’’
Zimmerman has been in criminal trouble multiple times since he fatally shot Martin in 2012.
Most recently, Zimmerman was arrested in 2018 on charges he cyberstalked and harassed a private investigator working with film producer Michael Gasparro and Jay-Z on a documentary series about Trayvon Martin. The private investigator told deputies that Zimmerman called him 21 times, sent him 38 text messages and left him seven voicemails, all within two and a half hours. Z
In 2013, Zimmerman was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault for allegedly pointing a shotgun at his girlfriend, though the case was later dropped. Two years later, he was arrested again - this time for charges of domestic aggravated assault for allegedly throwing a bottle of wine at his girlfriend. Those charges were also dropped.