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Judge Throws Out George Zimmerman’s Libel Suit Against NBC

McClatchy Tribune News Service National News

Judge Throws Out George Zimmerman’s Libel Suit Against NBC


By Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Sanford, Florida, judge on Monday put an end to George Zimmerman’s libel suit against NBC Universal.

Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson ruled that the former neighborhood watch volunteer is entitled to no money from the media giant.

She issued a summary judgment in the network’s favor, meaning that unless an appeals court reverses her, the case is now dead.

Zimmerman had filed suit two years ago, accusing NBC of falsely portraying him as a racist in a series of broadcasts shortly after he killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, in Sanford.

Editors shortened audio from a 911 call Zimmerman made to a police dispatcher the night of the shooting, making it sound as if Zimmerman volunteered that Trayvon was black and that he racially profiled the Miami Gardens teenager.

Those edited clips aired four times in March 2012.

In addition, Zimmerman accused the news organization of defaming him in a separate broadcast by falsely reporting that he used a racial epithet in the same call.

The network fired two employees who were involved in the edits and made a public apology.

At a hearing June 19, NBC attorney Lee Levine asked the judge to end the suit with a judgment in the network’s favor.

Zimmerman is a public figure, Levine said, and could not prove that he was the victim of “actual malice,” meaning that NBC employees either knew what they reported was false or had serious misgivings about it.

In her ruling, issued shortly before 9 a.m. Monday, Nelson wrote that that’s where Zimmerman’s suit fell apart.

“There exists absolutely no clear and convincing evidence that defendants knew that the information published was false at the time it was published, or recklessly disregarded the truth or falsity of those statements,” she wrote.

Zimmerman also alleged that the network intentionally inflicted emotional distress. Nelson shot down that claim, too.

In her 15-page order, she pointed out that time and again in March 2012 — the period during which Zimmerman claims NBC defamed him — the network quoted family members and friends who emphasized that Zimmerman was not a racist.

She also picked up on a tiny detail from the 911 call: that midway through the conversation, Zimmerman pointed out Martin’s race a second time, and that time it was without prompting.

“He’s got his hand in his waistband. And he’s a black male,” Zimmerman said.

The edits, the judge wrote, were not material changes.

As for the racial epithet, the judge wrote that the FBI did an analysis of the recording and concluded it was impossible to make out what Zimmerman had said. Given that, she wrote, it would be impossible for him to prove that NBC got that fact wrong.

In a one-sentence prepared statement, NBC News said it “is gratified by the court’s dismissal of this lawsuit, which we have always believed to be without merit.”

Zimmerman’s attorney, James Beasley Jr. of Philadelphia, was not available for comment Monday.

He had argued that it would be premature to throw out the suit, given that he had not yet begun to collect evidence.

He intended to take sworn statements from or check the network’s communications with several people, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist who led rallies, calling for Zimmerman’s arrest, and Special Prosecutor Angela Corey.

Zimmerman told police he acted in self-defense. He was acquitted of second-degree murder last year.

Photo via AFP



  1. disqus_9i6pUJ4xMT June 30, 2014

    I am glad the judge threw out the law suite. He deserve to be poor. He knew what he was doing at that time and he got away with it. Stand your ground law should be change, it is to liberal now and someone can pull a gun out if they think they are going to be harm, like someone look at them wrong.

    1. kenndeb July 1, 2014

      Actually, he does not deserve to be poor, and the only thing he got way with was his life, if you can call being demonized by the liberals and emperor a life. He did what he had to do to survive an attack.

      1. BillP July 1, 2014

        Who initiated the whole attack, who got out of his car after being told to wait for the police, who followed a teenage boy and eventually shot and killed him? If he had stayed in his car nothing would have happened. Instead a teenage boy is dead.

        1. kenndeb July 1, 2014

          I bet you think it’s a woman’s fault if she gets raped. Just because Zimmerman was there didn’t give Martin any reason to attack him. It was found to be self defense. Martin sealed his own fate.

          1. BillP July 2, 2014

            That is the most asinine logic for even a troll like you. First Zimmerman disobeyed the 911 operator to stay in his car and not follow the teenager (who was going to his father’s girlfriend’s home). He then shot and killed Trayvon. He went after Trayvon so he initiated the contact and then the end result was that Zimmerman was responsible for the teenager’s death. A woman getting raped is being attacked by a man, she didn’t initiate nor did she ask for it. You have consistently stated the stupidest arguments on this site and she did so with this last comment.

          2. kenndeb July 2, 2014

            Zimmerman did not initiate the attack. Martin did. Had Martin went home, instead of circling back to attack Zimmerman, he would still be alive, maybe. Chances are he would have attacked someone else given his history. He was not the innocent little kid like all the liberal media portrayed him to be. Zimmerman was acquitted, in spite of the Emperor getting involved. The only reason this was national news was because of this regimes agenda to divide and destroy our country. Black kids die everyday in Chicago, but you never hear about them, now do you?

          3. BillP July 3, 2014

            You certainly have a distorted sense of reality. Martin was walking back to his father’s girlfriend’s home. Zimmerman saw him and thought that this was suspicious, you know “walking while being black”. Zimmerman then chose to ignore the 911 operator’s advice to stay in his car and not follow Martin. He didn’t do that but instead followed Martin. Zimmerman was armed with a gun while Martin was armed with candy and a soda. That seems fair doesn’t it? Zimmerman is a overweight wannabe police officer who decided to intimidate this black teen. The main reason this went nation-wide was because of this horrible “Stand Your Ground” law which means you can basically shoot someone if you feel threatened.
            As for black kids being killed in Chicago or anywhere else in the country you do hear of this but not every instance. What has this to do with Zimmerman killing Martin because the teen was walking in some neighborhood? Your comparisons are as weak as analysis of the President, oh excuse me I mean the Emperor. That is one of the most juvenile things I have read on this site. It just shows the level or really lack on intelligent thought.

        2. bhaggen July 4, 2014

          Zimmerman had just as much right to get out of his car as Martin did leaving his house. After all, one could also say if Martin had stayed home, nothing would’ve happened. There was no evidence as to who initiated the attack. Two fools out on a rainy night……what could go wrong?

          1. BillP July 5, 2014

            So let’s get this straight, a teenage boy going to the store to buy a drink and candy can be considered the same as a grown man with a gun getting out of his car to follow a teen because why (possibly the teen was guilty of WWBB- walking while being black). You do have a warped view of things, a boy going to a store on a rainy night is a fool?? That’s crazy logic you are using. Zimmerman on the other hand was riding in his car, armed with a handgun doing what? You would expect the older person to act more rationally but then Zimmerman was an overweight wannabe police officer who couldn’t follow instruction to wait for the police. He didn’t and Martin was shot and killed, yeah I guess it was Martin’s fault for being a fool and thinking he could go to a store and buy something without being killed.

          2. bhaggen July 5, 2014

            My “view of things” & “crazy logic” are based on the law, not merely a whim. Both men had the right to be where they were & doing what they were doing, up until physical contact was made. There is NO “right of privacy” when walking on a public street. Since there is no law against WWBB, it seems that YOU are ignorant of our laws. The operator’s words, “we don’t need you to do that” is not an instruction, in fact, the police cannot legally give such orders unless they are at the scene. So again, not my crazy logic, but your ignorance of the law. Both men used poor judgment, but Martin was seen on top of Zimmerman beating his face which is §784.03 “felony battery”. So Martin was NOT a fool for going to the store, but for committing felony battery & assuming there were no witnesses. If you know of statutes that contradict any of what I have stated, give references, or STFU!

          3. BillP July 7, 2014

            I never said Zimmerman couldn’t get out of his car but you make it sound like he acted like a responsible adult in this situation. As for someone being ignorant please look in a mirror. The WWBB was irony, I know there is no such law but you need to get that pole out of your ass you stiff little asshole.
            Zimmerman was told to not follow the teen and only did so because he is a frustrated wannabe cop. Zimmerman was armed and followed after Martin. No one knows who made 1st contact but Zimmerman shot Martin. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous “Stand Your Ground” law Zimmerman would have been found guilty of manslaughter at the least. Martin was returning to his father’s girlfriend’s home when Zimmerman followed him and eventually shot him. That’s what any rational adult would do according to you.
            As for STFU you little punk it doesn’t take any balls to say that online but it does to do it face to face. Typical of you trolls to be all tough online.

          4. bhaggen July 8, 2014

            Is that all you got? Where did I state he acted like a responsible adult? I didn’t! Like I already stated, Zimmerman was NEVER told not to follow Martin (see prev post) You stated “possibly the teen was guilty of WWBB” That may be facetious but it’s certainly not irony; yet again, pure ignorance on your part. What trial were YOU watching? The “SYG” law had no bearing on this case, as it gives immunity to charges, detention, and arrest. Once murder charges are filed, SYG is out & it becomes self defense. Look it up! Is there a law against being a frustrated wannabe cop? Zimmerman had a CCW so no gun violations. Ballistic evidence showed that Martin was on top of Zimmerman when he was shot. I don’t like the guy, but like him or not, all the evidence supported his story. Can you prove my ignorance? Like I said, if you know of statutes that contradict any of what I have stated, give references, but all you can do is revert to name-calling & show how ignorant you really are.

          5. BillP July 8, 2014

            I’m not the one who started the name calling or told someone to STFU. As far as I know I have the right (you do like to point out Zimmerman’s rights) to freedom of speech. I will continue to say whatever I want. You can quote any law you want, “if” Zimmerman stayed in his car nothing happens. He left his car and an encounter ensued, who started it was never really determined. Zimmerman may have started the fight with Martin but wound up on the ground. Zimmerman was the person who could have avoided this but chose to follow (no law against per you the legal scholar) Martin. What would you do if someone was following you? Your name calling and arrogance are typical of trolls like you on this site. The safety of the internet allows for a lot of bravado.

          6. bhaggen July 9, 2014

            You seem to have a reading comprehension issue or you’re just in complete denial. Look at the thread. You DID start the name calling. And I asked you for references OR STFU. Kinda like put up or shut up. It’s called sarcasm, look it up. I could say it was irony, but that would be stupid. Note that I pointed out BOTH men’s rights, not just Zimmerman’s. You have the right to your own opinion, but you DON’T have the right to your own facts! Again, BOTH men showed poor judgment. An overweight wannabe cop and a black thug trying his hand at “knockout” But the “creepy-ass-cracker” he attacked THAT night had a gun to defend himself and so “little” Trayvon became just another black crime statistic. No big deal, he would’ve been in prison by now anyway. Martin’s friends had even asked him in texts to stop the fighting but he wouldn’t listen. As for you? “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt” …..Abe Lincoln.

          7. BillP July 9, 2014

            Here’s your initial comment “Zimmerman had just as much right to get out of his car as Martin did leaving his house. After all, one could also say if Martin had stayed home, nothing would’ve happened. There was no evidence as to who initiated the attack. Two fools out on a rainy night..”. You started the thread between us not me. My reply to you started with “So let’s get this straight, a teenage boy going to the store to buy a drink and candy can be considered the same as a grown man with a gun getting out of his car to follow a teen”. Where did I call you a name? Glad to see your balanced opinion on this issue. The main issue with this situation was that a teen boy not a man went to a store and was walking back home. An armed man saw him and decided to get out of his car to follow the teen, why? Maybe the teen’s color had something to do with it. One action all sorts of people do every day, got to a store, but something then return home. The other action was a grown man with a gun gets out of his car, ignoring the 911 operator’s “suggestion” and follows someone who is acting suspiciously, you know walking home. The teen ends up dead, whether Martin started the fight or Zimmerman did belies the issue that Zimmerman started the whole action by leaving his car. You can state he has the right to get out of his car, he was legally carrying a handgun, I know you love people’s rights but any rational adult would have stayed in their car and let the police handle this. This way no one would have gotten into a fight and no one would have died.

            Glad to see your racial beliefs coming out with statements like “No big deal, he would’ve been in prison by now anyway.” Martin wasn’t a “black” crime statistic, he was a crime statistic but it’s nice to know what you really think.
            Get the thread to see who started with the nastiness. You told me to STFU, of course you did this on the safety of the internet, and then I called you an asshole. So maybe you need some reading comprehension yourself. I will continue to write on this site whenever I choose to.

          8. bhaggen July 14, 2014

            I’m going to reply in chronological order. Yes, I
            started the thread between us, after you started the thread with kenndeb. That’s
            how threads work, it’s a public forum, but where did that come from? “Where did
            I call you a name?” you ask. Look at the thread! “get that pole out of your ass
            you stiff little asshole” followed by “you little punk” That’s the type of
            attitude Martin had that night & it didn’t turn
            out well, did it? A 17yr old is a young man, not a boy, so stop already with the
            false narrative of the boy in the ski outfit. If he WAS a boy he shouldn’t have
            been out at night without adult supervision. There had been numerous break-ins
            in the community by young black men and Zimmerman was an appointed “watch captain” Don’t forget he
            did call the police before he got out of his car, Martin did not call the police
            about the creepy-ass-cracker that was following him. Why not? Was he up to
            something? Martin also used a racial slur, not Zimmerman and it was YOU that
            brought race into this exchange, not me; read the thread! What’s
            racial about “No big deal, he would’ve been in prison by now anyway.”? Martin IS
            a black crime statistic & that has nothing to do with what I think, that’s
            from the FBI’s own website; look it up! The “nastiness” started with your first
            reply to my true & impartial statement of fact! “You do have a warped view of things” What was “warped” about my original statement? It was in fact Martin that started the whole action by vandalizing his school and getting suspended. His mother sent him to live with his dad because she couldn’t deal with his bad behavior! That occurred way before Zimmerman got out of his car. I didn’t tell you to STFU, I stated “If you know of statutes that contradict any of what I have stated, give references, or STFU!” and I’d say that to your face as well. Is there a problem with that? You took offense because you have no facts, just rhetoric. That’s on you, not me. What have I not comprehended? Of course you may continue to display your ignorance of the law on this site if you choose. Fortunately for you & Zimmerman there are no laws against being irresponsible.

          9. BillP July 17, 2014

            Thank you for enlightening me about threads, I thought they were used with a needle in sewing. However I think we differ on who was nasty first. Here’s the last sentence in your initial comment “If you know of statutes that contradict any of what I have stated, give references, or STFU!” There is no way this isn’t a arrogant, nasty command, you know it and I know it. As for saying it to my face you are welcome to meet me and do it, talking tough on the internet isn’t impressive.

            As for whether a 17yo male is boy or young adult that’s just semantics. You ski outfit reference is unnecessary and ridiculous. Do you have some index for when a male is a young boy, boy, young adult, adult? Is there a cutoff age for each category?

            As for Zimmerman being a Watch Captain, he didn’t even follow the outlines and rules used by the watch group he helped organize. Per “Wendy Dorival, who coordinated neighborhood watch programs for the Sanford, Florida, Police Department in 2012, testified Tuesday that George Zimmerman was specifically told not to pursue suspicious people in the gated community where he lived.” additionally “Dorival told him a neighborhood watch volunteer should act as the “eyes and ears” of the police — but not like a vigilante” From the watch group’s guidelines – Not the Vigilante Police, Report suspicious activity, Don’t follow suspects. Also the watch group wasn’t recognized by the National Sheriffs Association nor was it approved by the Twin Lakes Homeowners Association. In fact the NSA recommends that no Watch Group member carry a gun not to follow a suspect or confront a suspect.
            All of the above is minor compared to your comment that Martin was responsible for all of this because he was suspended from school and sent to live with his father. Martin didn’t have any criminal record and even if he did Zimmerman had no knowledge of this so it couldn’t have entered into his decision making. He saw a black male walking in Twin Lakes and decided he was suspicious, why? He got out of his car, he followed Martin, confronted him, got into a fight with him and shot and killed him. Martin has committed no crime before being confronted by Zimmerman.
            As for your bs excuse of telling me to STFU, it doesn’t matter what prefaced that command. It was and still is an arrogant and nasty command. I welcome you to tell me to my face. We would see how tough you really are.
            By the way SYG wasn’t used in trial because Zimmerman’s lawyer decided not to go with that defense, it doesn’t mean it didn’t have an effect. In this country being “not guilty” doesn’t mean the same thing as being innocent. All it means is that the prosecution didn’t proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
            You can call me irresponsible but I didn’t kill anyone like Zimmerman did. But then you are equating our actions, another display of your ridiculous arrogance.

          10. bhaggen July 22, 2014

            would be extremely difficult to equal, let alone surpass, your level of
            ignorance. Yes, threads can also be used with a needle in sewing but with
            computer programing and then the internet it became a homonym. “give references,
            or STFU!” ended my 2nd comment NOT my initial response. You got A-D-D or
            something? Pay attention; follow the threads! “Two fools out on a rainy
            night……what could go wrong?” ended my initial comment. Your response added
            race & derogatory language, not mine. Look for yourself, if you can count
            back that far. Just as you called “kenndeb” asinine because you didn’t like what she said. She didn’t get nasty, YOU did, just follow the threads, fool.You never did cite references to your claims because none exist.
            You don’t recall the media’s initial portrayal of cute little Trayvon in the ski
            outfit? Use your head Bill, the powers-that-be wanted to turn this tragedy into
            a race issue. I don’t have an “index” but the law DOES! Adult 18+, minor 14-18,
            child under 14. When you reach puberty you’re a young man or woman, not a kid.
            You may very well be correct about Zimmerman not following “watch” guidelines.
            They should’ve relieved him of that position but didn’t. That’s why the Martins
            won the civil case but it has no bearing on the criminal case. Martin getting suspended from school is irrelevant to the case as is Zimmermann getting out of his car. Which brings us full circle to my original post. If you can unravel the thread. In this country one is innocent until proven guilty. BTW, he WAS a cute kid.

          11. BillP July 22, 2014

            I was being a bit sarcastic with you but that pole must prevent you from picking up on that!! Your calling Martin a fool for going out at 7pm to buy something from a store shows your bias on this story. What my post stated was that Martin was profiled by Zimmerman because he was a black “minor”, therefore guilty of WWBB another comment you misunderstood.

            I may well be correct about the Neighborhood Watch guidelines, no may about this. Do a little research and you can see what the National Sherriff Association has as its guidelines and what Wendy Dorival of the Twin Lakes watch group also uses as its guidelines.

            Your statement ” Martin getting suspended from school is irrelevant to the case as is Zimmermann getting out of his car.” is really farfetched, if Zimmerman had followed the watch’s guidelines he would have never followed Martin and nothing would have happened. To equate a “minor” getting suspended from school to an adult getting out of his car with a loaded handgun that resulted in the death of the minor is ridiculous. If Martin hadn’t been suspended but still was visiting his father and went to the store would that have changed anything.

          12. bhaggen July 28, 2014

            I called Martin & Zimmerman “two fools”. How is that biased? If you had paid better attention in school you’d know what bias is. Maybe you missed that during your suspension. Bias: “A preference that inhibits impartial judgment.” Therefore, by definition you, not I, are biased. You are incorrect AGAIN! Martin was NOT guilty of WWBB! No such statute exists in the U.S. But Zimmerman may very well have profiled Martin because he was a young black male. Why would he do that? According to the USDJ records, young black males are 10 times as likely to be involved in violent crime than white males. 10 TIMES! Combined with the fact that young black men had been breaking into homes in The Retreat, he had good reason to profile Martin didn’t he? Nothing illegal about profiling, in fact law enforcement does it to catch criminals! What IS relevant to this case is Martin committed a §784.03 “felony battery” and the victim of his assault got him with 1 shot. You see; if Martin HADN’T been suspended but still was visiting his father and went to the store; then Zimmerman WOULDN’T have been there. That’s how fate works. Martin was bad karma. Lesson: Keep your hands to yourself & avoid confrontations. The Martins got a big payday; they could give a rats ass about little Trayvon. He was worth more dead than alive! You raise a thug, you bury a thug.

          13. BillP July 28, 2014

            Besides being an arrogant ass you seem to have a reading issue. By saying the “two fools” are equally responsible for this event does show a bias (a particular tendency or inclination). Martin went out to a store purchased 2 items (perhaps you think he stole them since young blacks are 10X more likely to commit a crime), how is that a foolish thing to do? The WWBB comment is just that a comment, we all know there is no actual law but then again that pole in you gets in the way of you grasp of things.

            Your depiction of Martin as a thug is irrelevant since Zimmerman had no prior knowledge of Martin. You seem to easily forget that Zimmerman disobeyed the guidelines of his own watch group – don’t follow, don’t confront and don’t be a vigilante. He doesn’t get out of his car nothing happens. Your statement “You see “if Martin HADN’T been suspended but still was visiting his father and went to the store; then Zimmerman WOULDN’T have been there” That is just one more example of your bizarre logic. Using bad karma is so ludicrous especially for such a tightly wound person. Martin had no police record, he got into some trouble at school, lots of young boys have done the same things. Being a thug isn’t a death sentence crime is it? That’s unless they encounter some wannabe police officer who couldn’t even follow some simple guidelines.
            You show arrogance by stating that Martin’s family got a big payday and couldn’t care about their son. If the same thing happened you would do the same thing as they did. Gee that seems to have happened before Nicole Brown’s family field a civil suit too. It’s nice to see what a caring and understanding person you are (of course I’m being facetious)

          14. bhaggen July 28, 2014

            You are like….sooo in denial. Question: At what point in time, did you realize that Doughboy Zimmerman was guilty??

          15. BillP July 29, 2014

            No denial here, Zimmerman was found not guilty. I just state that if he had stayed in his car nothing would have occurred, no fight, no shooting, no death. You make up some karma bs to try to state that Martin was totally responsible for his own death.
            Your obvious bias comes through with your callous comments about the teenager and his parents.

          16. bhaggen July 30, 2014

            And you agree with the jury’s not guilty verdict? If so, why?

          17. BillP August 1, 2014

            I have never said I agree with the not guilty verdict but it’s a done deal, can’t try Zimmerman again for the shooting. I believe he’s responsible for the shooting since he chose to ignore the 911 operator’s “suggestion”, ignore his watch group’s guidelines and the NSA guidelines that include not carrying a gun while patrolling.

          18. bhaggen August 7, 2014

            This was strictly about a series of bad decisions being made by two individuals that unfortunately led to one of them dying. I never stated that Martin was totally responsible for his own death. Having said that, if you can remove your emotions and look at the evidence, the eyewitness testimony, and just use common sense and logic there is no way, if you are truly being honest with yourself, absolutely no way you could have found GZ guilty. I waited until the evidence was presented in a court of law before I passed judgment. You, on the other hand, appear to have passed judgment prematurely, and are now experiencing cognitive dissonance.

          19. BillP August 8, 2014

            We can discuss this event over and over and nothing is changed. Your statement about if I were truly being honest I couldn’t find Zimmerman guilty is slanted at best. Since neither you or I were in the courtroom for the entire trial it would be difficult to know all of the evidence presented. The one issue is that GZ started the chain of events by not following his watch group or NSA guidelines. If he stayed in his car (I know he had every right to get out of his car) nothing would have happened.

          20. bhaggen August 17, 2014

            I wasn’t in the courtroom but I saw most of the evidence being presented on TV or online. The forensic & ballistic evidence was of particular interest. I expected some incriminating ballistic evidence. If Martin had been shot more than once or the shot had been fired at greater than arms length, I’d be looking for a guilty verdict. But the evidence supported Zimmerman’s story. Just because I think he’s an a-hole doesn’t make him guilty of murder. If Martin had walked straight home (I know he had every right to look for Zimmerman) nothing would have happened.

          21. BillP August 17, 2014

            This issue has been done to death but you know your last sentence of the above comment is such pure drivel. Martin was walking home when Zimmerman got out of his car and followed Martin. Your statement doesn’t match the chronology of events. Martin went to a store, made a purchase and was walking straight home when the armed Zimmerman saw him, got out of his car and followed him. What you wrote is bullshit.

  2. George Kato July 2, 2014

    A free country’s rewards communicate how much certain achievements are worth, regardless of the amount of effort expended in their pursuit.


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