Benjamin Crump, a renowned civil rights attorney who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old unarmed black boy who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman in 2012, blasted the $100 million lawsuit filed by Zimmerman on Wednesday as “unfounded and reckless.”
In an emailed statement made on behalf of himself and the parents of Martin — Sybrina Fulton, who is running for local office, and Tracy Martin — Crump 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.”
“This plaintiff continues to display a callous disregard for everyone but himself, revictimizing individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions,” he 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,” he added.
Larry Klayman, a conservative activist and lawyer representing Zimmerman, confirmed to the Sun-Sentinel that a lawsuit against Crump, Martin’s parents and others involved in the case had been filed on Wednesday.
Klayman has not yet returned a request for comment from The Hill.
In the lawsuit, which was filed in Polk County, Fla., Zimmerman is said to be seeking “compensatory and actual including consequential and incidental damages in excess of $100,000,000.00.”
His team alleges that a bulk of the defendants listed in the lawsuit worked together “in concert, agreed to put on a false witness with a made-to-order false storyline to try to fraudulently create probable cause to arrest Plaintiff Zimmerman and to try to fraudulently obtain a conviction against Plaintiff Zimmerman.”
The suit takes aim specifically at Rachel Jeantel, a friend of Martin’s who was a witness in the trial that followed his death, calling her an “imposter and fake witness.”
His team claims in the suit that after Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in Sanford, Fla., in 2012, Sanford Florida Police Chief Bill Lee declared that “the investigation concluded the shooting was an act of self-defense and there were no grounds to arrest Zimmerman. It was not a stand your ground case.”
However, the lawsuit alleges that the case was picked up again when Crump brought Jeantel onto the case as a witness “and provided false statements to incriminate Zimmerman based on coaching from others.”
Zimmerman’s lawyers reportedly claimed in the suit that Jeantel lied about being Martin’s girlfriend and being on the phone with him prior to his altercation with Zimmerman that led to his death. They also alleged that she “lied about her identity.”
“Defendant Jeantel lied repeatedly about having a relationship with Trayvon, about being on the phone with Trayvon in the days and minutes up to his death, and lied about everything she claimed to have heard over the phone in the hours and minutes prior to Trayvon’s death,” the 36-page suit states. “Defendant Jeantel also lied about her identity, falsely claiming her nickname to be ‘Diamond Eugene.’”
The suit also accuses Crump and HarperCollins Publishers of defaming Zimmerman in his book published in October titled “Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People.”
They claim Crump and his book’s publisher defamed Zimmerman “with actual malice knowing the untruth or at a minimum a reckless disregard for the truth.”
HarperCollins Publishers did not return a request for comment from The Hill.
The suit goes on to claim that the charges Zimmerman received for his role in Martin’s death caused him “to suffer great mental anguish, resulting in Zimmerman requiring professional treatment by psychologists for anxiety, depression, insomnia, and weight gain.”
“Zimmerman was formally diagnosed with depression as well as PTSD and PTSS which he suffers from and remains in treatment for to this day,” the suit added. “Because of the arrest, charges, prosecution and federal investigation, Zimmerman lives in constant fear of physical harm due to regular death threats, which often are expressed in rap music as well as online social media commentary.”
Zimmerman, 36, was a neighborhood watch leader in Sanford when he fatally shot Martin. He has long maintained that he shot Martin, an unarmed black young teenager, in self-defense. However, at the time, Zimmerman had been instructed by a police dispatcher not to follow him.
Martin’s death sparked a wave of protests across the nation over the treatment of black people in the country. Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting helped serve as a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement.