George Zimmerman sued NBCUniversal today over an edited 911 call from the night he shot Trayvon Martin. “NBC created this false and defamatory misimpression using the oldest form of yellow journalism: manipulating Zimmerman’s own words, splicing together disparate parts of the recording to create the illusion of statements that Zimmerman never actually made,” says the defamation suit (read it here) filed Thursday in Seminole County, Fla. The 24-page complaint adds that “NBC News saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain.” NBC correspondent Ron Allen, as well as Lilia Rodriguez Luciano and Jeff Burnside are also named as defendants. Luciano and Burnside, as well as a NBC producer, were fired after an internal investigation determined that the tape had been edited.
Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder in the February 26 shooting of 17-year-old Martin. The incident, for which Zimmerman has claimed self-defense, happen after the 28-year old man called police to report on the teen’s behavior in the Sanford, Florida gated community. Martin was visiting his father who lived there. Portions of Zimmerman’s conversation that night with the 911 dispatcher, where he was asked to give Martin’s race and other details, were removed by NBC. Claiming “severe and extreme emotional stress” over the edited tape and the perception it created, Zimmerman is asking for damages “substantially in excess of the jurisdictional limit.” While naming no dollar figure, the complaint says, “plaintiff seeks substantial compensation and exemplary damages to punish the defendants for their outrageous fraud upon the public, designed to mislead our nation, create a national uproar, forever ostracize Zimmerman, and taint his jury pool, all to profit and attract attention to their television news programs.” Zimmerman is asking for a jury trial. The plaintiff is represented by Mark O’Mara of Orlando firm The O’Mara Law Group and Philadelphia’s Beasley Firm.