ORLANDO (AP/CBS4) – George Zimmerman filed suit against NBC Thursday saying he was defamed by the network when an audio recording from a 911 call to police after the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford was edited to make him sound like he was a racist.
Also named in the complaint were three reporters covering the story of NBC or an NBC owned and operated station.
The former neighborhood watch volunteer is seeking an undisclosed amount of money in Seminole County, outside Orlando.
Zimmerman claims the airing of the edited call caused him emotional distress, making him fear for his life and causing him to suffer nausea, insomnia and anxiety.
The lawsuit claims NBC edited his phone call to a dispatcher last February. 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 during a confrontation.
“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,” the lawsuit claims.
NBC spokeswoman Kathy Kelly-Brown said the network strongly disagreed with the accusations made in the complaint.
“There was no intent to portray Mr. Zimmerman unfairly,” she said. “We intend to vigorously defend our position in court.”
Three employees of the network or its Miami affiliate lost their jobs because of the changes.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder but has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense under Florida’s “stand your ground law.”
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.”
But 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.”
(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)