Exclusive: Fired employee to file lawsuit against Zimmerman prosecutors
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former employee of Florida State Attorney Angela Corey's office plans to file a whistleblower lawsuit against George Zimmerman's prosecutors, his attorney told Reuters on Tuesday.
The action will put pressure on Corey, who already faces criticism from some legal experts for the unsuccessful prosecution of the case, which led to the acquittal of Zimmerman for shooting unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman's defense has also called for sanctions against her and her prosecution team.
Ben Kruidbos, Corey's former director of information technology, was fired after testifying at a pre-trial hearing on June 6 that prosecutors failed to turn over potentially embarrassing evidence extracted from Martin's cell phone to the defense, as required by evidence-sharing laws.
"We will be filing a whistleblower action in (Florida's Fourth Judicial District) Circuit Court," said Kruidbos' attorney Wesley White, himself a former prosecutor who was hired by Corey but resigned in December because he disagreed with her prosecutorial priorities. He said the suit will be filed within the next 30 days.
Corey and lead prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Corey referred Reuters to Kruidbos' termination letter, previously made public, in which Corey's office accused him of hacking confidential information from state computers.
The six-page letter, dated July 11, charges Kruidbos with "deliberate, willful and unscrupulous actions" that make him untrustworthy and calls his questioning of de la Rionda's actions regarding the cell phone evidence "a shallow, but obvious, attempt to cloak yourself in the protection of the whistleblower law."
Zimmerman was acquitted on Saturday following a five-week trial that riveted America and relaunched debates on race and guns. The verdict sparked demonstrations in some cities by those angered by the decision.
On Monday, Corey told Reuters, "Our office adhered to the highest standards of ethical behavior."
Trial law requires prosecutors to share evidence with defense attorneys, especially if it helps exonerate defendants. The requirement is known as the Brady disclosure.
Kruidbos testified last month in a pre-trial hearing that he found photos on Martin's phone that included pictures of a pile of jewelry on a bed, underage nude females, marijuana plants and a hand holding a semi-automatic pistol.
The Martin family lawyer, Benjamin Crump, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Kruidbos had emailed de la Rionda in late January and attached a report containing the text messages and images he had retrieved from Martin's cell phone, his lawyer said.
Zimmerman's chief defense attorney Mark O'Mara has said he didn't receive the material until June, shortly before the murder trial began.
Judge Debra Nelson ruled that pictures and texts from Martin's cell phone were inadmissible, after prosecutors argued that it couldn't be proven Martin actually took the pictures and wrote the texts on his phone.
The judge has yet to rule on whether the prosecution committed any Brady violations by not handing over evidence, as alleged by Zimmerman's defense team.