By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI (Reuters) – Former Florida volunteer community watchman George Zimmerman, whose 2012 killing of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin drew attention across the United States, sued Martin’s family and lawyers on Wednesday, saying they used a fake witness against him.
Zimmerman is seeking at least $100 million in damages from Martin’s parents, state prosecutors and two women, who are accused in a Polk County, Florida, lawsuit of helping provide false statements to investigators and during the trial, according to court papers.
On Feb. 26, 2012, Zimmerman, who was then a neighborhood watch captain in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, fatally shot Martin after the teen’s trip to a convenience store to buy snacks. The incident helped spark the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Zimmerman was arrested and charged. During the 2013 trial, prosecutors argued Zimmerman profiled, pursued and confronted the black youth. Zimmerman claimed he shot Martin in self defense and was found not guilty by a jury.
The lawsuit accuses Martin’s parents and the family’s attorney Benjamin Crump of orchestrating a campaign to force Brittany Diamond Eugene, 16, who was reportedly Martin’s girlfriend, to make a recorded statement that implicated Zimmerman as the aggressor in the altercation with Martin.
Eugene was on the phone with Martin moments before the altercation with Zimmerman, the suit said.
The lawsuit also says that Eugene’s half-sister Rachel Jeantel pretended to be Eugene when she was interviewed by prosecutors and provided false statements to incriminate Zimmerman based on coaching from others in court during his trial.
Crump said in a statement on behalf of himself and Martin’s parents that he has confidence that the “unfounded and reckless” lawsuit will be revealed as “another failed attempt to defend the indefensible and a shameless attempt to profit off the lives and grief of others.”
Martin’s uncle, Ronald Fulton, 56, said the lawsuit was no more than a publicity stunt to promote a forthcoming documentary titled the “Trayvon Hoax” that alleges Jeantel was an impostor.
“During the trial, most of the people they brought in were officers of Orange County, were they a hoax too?” he asked a Reuters reporter during a telephone interview.
(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Scott Malone, Chris Reese and Bill Berkrot)