George Zimmerman, the former Florida neighborhood watchman who was acquitted of killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin after a racially-charged trial has filed a $265 million defamation lawsuit against two of the Democrats running for president -- Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.
The lawsuit claims the candidates “defamed Zimmerman for political gain in misguided and malicious attempts to bolster their standings amongst African-American voters, all at Zimmerman’s expense.”
They allegedly did so in “separate postings on their Twitter accounts” on February 5, 2020 that suggest Zimmerman killed Martin as a result of “racism” or “fear” because of Martin’s skin color.
“The defamatory tweets are not an account of two sides of an issue that raises questions in a reader’s mind,” the suit states. “They are evidence of not only a reckless disregard of the truth but also of common law malice.”
Warren and Buttigieg “intentionally desired to ‘get’ Plaintiff Zimmerman and ‘muckrake’ him,” the suit states.
The lawsuit included the tweets, which Warren (a Massachusetts senator) and Buttigieg (the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana) posted to mark what would have been Martin’s 25th birthday.
My heart goes out to @SybrinaFulton and Trayvon's family and friends. He should still be with us today.
We need to end gun violence and racism. And we need to build a world where all of our children—especially young Black boys—can grow up safe and free. https://t.co/9lXXlRnvzL
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 6, 2020
There was no immediate responses to requests for comment from the Warren and Buttigieg campaigns. The lawsuit landed as both candidates were preparing for a debate in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Trayvon Martin would have been 25 today.
How many 25th birthdays have been stolen from us by white supremacy, gun violence, prejudice, and fear?#BlackLivesMatter
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) February 5, 2020
Zimmerman’s lawsuit was filed by his lawyer, conservative nonprofit Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman.
In December, Klayman filed another lawsuit on behalf of Zimmerman, this one a $100 million lawsuit against the dead teenager’s family and others who were involved in the hard-fought case that divided the nation.
In that suit, Klayman claimed the lawyer for Martin’s parents, Benjamin Crump, defamed Zimmerman in his book, “Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People.”
Martin, who lived in Miami, was killed on Feb. 26, 2012, while he was walking to his father’s girlfriend’s home in a gated community in Sanford, a city near Orlando.
Zimmerman, who regularly patrolled the development, encountered the unarmed black teenager as he was returning from a 7-Eleven where he had purchased a package of Skittles and an Arizona Watermelon Fruit Juice cocktail.
There is no dispute that Zimmerman fatally shot Martin. But state prosecutors contended that Zimmerman racially profiled the hoodie-clad Martin and continued to tail the teenager even after a police dispatcher told him that was not necessary.
Zimmerman’s lawyers claimed he shot the teenager in self-defense after Martin jumped him and beat him up. His acquittal sparked protests nationwide. The Justice Department decided not to bring a civil rights case against Zimmerman.