George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted in the 2012 fatal shooting of black teen Trayvon Martin, has launched a $100 million lawsuit against Martin’s family and Florida prosecutors, claiming that they engineered false evidence to frame him in the homicide trial.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Polk County Circuit Court and seeks $100million in civil damages for defamation, abuse of civil process and conspiracy.
The suit alleges the prosecution’s key witness in Zimmerman’s 2013 murder trial, Rachel Jeantel, was an imposter coached by the family and their lawyers.
Zimmerman is being represented by high-profile conservative legal crusader Larry Klayman (pictured), founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch and a former US Department of Justice prosecutor.
DailyMail report: The lead defendant in the suit is Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother. Fulton became a nationally-acclaimed advocate for social justice and reducing gun violence in the wake of her son’s death, and is now running for a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission.
The second defendant is the family’s attorney, Ben Crump. He is accused of defamation and attempting to ‘deprive Zimmerman of his constitutional and other legal rights’.
The lawsuit also names Harper Collins, accusing the publisher of defaming Zimmerman by publishing Crump’s book, Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People, ‘with actual malice knowing the untruth or at a minimum a reckless disregard for the truth’.
Crump responded to the lawsuit on behalf of himself and Martin’s parents in a statement Wednesday.
‘This plaintiff continues to display a callous disregard for everyone but himself, revictimizing individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions,’ he said.
‘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.
‘This tale defies all logic, and it’s time to close the door on these baseless imaginings.’
Soon after reports of the lawsuit emerged, the hashtag #IStandWithSybrina began trending on Twitter as users expressed support for Martin’s mom.
Zimmerman, 36, is being represented by high-profile conservative legal crusader Larry Klayman.
Klayman released the full legal complaint to the media on Wednesday before it was officially filed.
The complaint alleges that the Sanford Police Department thoroughly investigated the February 2012 shooting and closed the case as self-defense the following month.
One week later, the suit claims, Crump produced a recording of ‘Diamond Eugene’, who he said was Martin’s 16-year-old girlfriend who was on the phone with the victims minutes before the confrontation with Zimmerman.
Two days after that, 18-year-old Jeantel, Eugene’s half sister, appeared before the court and ‘provided false statements to incriminate Zimmerman based on coaching from others’.
The suit alleges that Martin’s cell phone records prove Jeantel was not on the phone with him before the altercation, and that she ‘lied repeatedly to cause Zimmerman’s arrest and to try to send him to prison for life’.
It charges that Eugene was Martin’s real girlfriend and did speak with him prior to the shooting, but that Eugene asked Jeantel to pretend to be her so that she didn’t have to testify.
Klayman said several defendants in the suit ‘have been proven to know about the switch to the imposter witness’ – including Fulton, Crump and Florida prosecutors Bernie de la Rionda, John Guy, Angela Corey.
The attorney said the allegations did not emerge at the trial and that ‘the fraud was perpetuated on the court’.
‘It was a complete travesty of justice which destroyed my client’s life,’ Klayman said. ‘People are destroyed and smeared and they have to start fighting back.’
Klayman said the allegations in the new lawsuit are based on shocking evidence exposed in a book and documentary by film director Joel Gilbert, called The Trayvon Hoax: Unmasking the Witness Fraud that Divided America.
The film was scheduled to debut at the Coral Gables Art Cinema on Thursday following a press conference about the lawsuit, but the theater posted on Twitter on Wednesday that it ‘was not aware of all of the details surrounding this event and has made a decision to cancel it’.
Klayman later announced that he was searching for a new venue for the screening.
The attorney, a former US Department of Justice prosecutor, is the founder of watchdog groups Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch.
Last July, an ethics committee of the bar in the District of Columbia recommended that Klayman’s law license be suspended for more than two years.
Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Martin in a gated community in Sanford Florida on February 26, 2012.
Martin, who lived in Miami Gardens but was in Sanford to visit his father, was returning from the store after buying candy when Zimmerman, then 28, reported him as a suspicious to police.
Zimmerman claimed that when he approached Martin the teen attacked him, so he fired his weapon in self defense.
Prosecutors said Martin was minding his own business and that there was no justification for the shooting.
Martin’s death shook the nation and launched the Black Lives Matter Movement after Zimmerman was charged with murder and later acquitted by a jury.
Zimmerman remained in the public glare after his acquittal because of a lengthy trial.