George Zimmerman has sued NBC over an edited 911 call from the night he shot Trayvon Martin in February. Zimmerman claims he was defamed when the network made the call sound like he was racist. The former neighborhood watch volunteer filed the lawsuit seeking an undisclosed amount of money in Seminole County, outside Orlando. Also named in the complaint were three reporters covering the story for NBC or an NBC-owned station.
The suit, which didn’t name a dollar amount and requested a jury trial, said the airing of the edited call has inflicted emotional distress, making him fear for his life and causing him to suffer nausea, insomnia and anxiety, reports USA Today/AP.
In the call, Zimmerman describes following Martin in the gated community where he lived, just moments before he fatally shot the 17-year-old teen after their confrontation.
The call viewers heard was trimmed to suggest that Zimmerman volunteered to police, with no prompting, that Martin was black: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”
The portion of the tape that was deleted had the 911 dispatcher asking Zimmerman if the person who had raised his suspicion was “black, white or Hispanic,” to which Zimmerman responded, “He looks black.”
“NBC saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create a myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain,” AP reported the suit as claiming.
The lawsuit also names as defendants the NBC correspondents Ron Allen and Lilia Rodriguez Luciano, as well as Jeff Burnside, a reporter for WTVJ-TV, the NBC-owned station in Miami. Luciano, Burnside and an NBC producer were fired after a network investigation determined that the 911 tape had been edited.
“We strongly disagree with the accusations made in the complaint,” NBC Universal said Thursday afternoon in a statement. “There was no intent to portray Mr. Zimmerman unfairly. We intend to vigorously defend our position in court.”
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder but has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense under Florida’s “stand your ground law.”
RBR-TVBR observation: If indeed this call was edited like described in the suit, NBC is very liable for damages. This is a hugely sensitive case and a life-endangering situation for Zimmerman. To do anything that would make it worse for him or the citizens of Florida is simply libelous. Editing the call at all was not a smart move. NBC’s firing of the three employees only helps to substantiate that the company knew there was wrongdoing.