George Zimmerman, the Florida man acquitted in the 2012 death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, is suing Martin’s family, prosecutors and others involved in the case for $100 million. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, he claimed that the case relied on false evidence and cites “malicious prosecution” by prosecutors.
Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, is represented by Larry Klayman, a former U.S. federal prosecutor and the founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch. They allege that the prosecution’s key witness, Rachel Jeantel, was an “imposter and fake witness” and that Benjamin Crump, the Martin family’s attorney, defamed Zimmerman in the process.
According to the complaint, the Sanford Police Department proved Zimmerman acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Martin, closing the investigation in March 2012. Crump then released audio, allegedly of Martin and his girlfriend, 12-year-old Diamond Eugene, talking just before he was killed by Zimmerman.
Prosecutors and police at the time described the shooting as unjustified, and Martin became a national figure, sparking protests across the country. Zimmerman’s acquittal served as a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Klayman said 18-year-old Rachel Jeantel appeared in court two weeks later, posing as Eugene and providing incriminating false statements against Zimmerman. They also allege that Jeantel lied repeatedly in court, while Martin’s supposed “real girlfriend,” Brittany Diamond Eugene, “refused to bear false witness” against Zimmerman.
The suit alleges that Martin’s parents, attorney and several others involved in the case knew about the “imposter witness.”
The allegations and lawsuit follow the release of “The Trayvon Hoax: Unmasking the Witness Fraud that Divided America,” a book and film by director Joel Gilbert. Gilbert used Martin’s phone records to allege that Rachel Jeantel was not his girlfriend and was not on the phone with him before his altercation with Zimmerman.
The film was set to screen at the Coral Gables Art Cinema on Thursday following a press conference with Klayman, Zimmerman and Gilbert. However, the cinema canceled the event Wednesday afternoon following outrage on Twitter.
Zimmerman is also suing Crump and the publisher HarperCollins, accusing them of defamation for Crump’s recent book, “Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People.” He claims they published false, misleading and slanderous statements that damage Zimmerman’s character.
According to the suit, the case “caused Zimmerman to suffer great mental anguish,” requiring professional treatment by psychologists for PTSD, anxiety, depression, insomnia and weight gain. Zimmerman also continues to face numerous death threats and financial loss, the suit alleges.
The lead defendant in the suit, Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton, has become a national advocate against gun violence in the wake of her son’s death. She is running for Miami-Dade County Commissioner.
“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 said in a statement obtained by journalist Stephanie Wash on behalf of himself and Martin’s parents.
“This plaintiff continues to display a callous disregard for everyone but himself, revictimizing individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions,” Crump continued. “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,” Crump added.
Klayman, HarperCollins and a representative for the Trayvon Martin Foundation did not immediately respond to CBS News’ request for comment.