TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - George Zimmerman, acquitted of murder charges in the shooting death of an unarmed black teen in Florida, said in a videotaped interview that President Barack Obama stoked racial tensions in the case.
The former Florida neighborhood watch volunteer said he felt liberated after federal prosecutors last month decided not to press civil rights charges in the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin.
“Now is the perfect time to speak my mind without fear of retaliation,” Zimmerman told one of his attorneys, Howard Iken, in a March 8 interview, released to the media on Monday.
Zimmerman criticized his treatment by federal prosecutors and in particular by Obama. He said Obama should not have inflamed racial tensions as he did by saying in a White House speech that if he had a son, that child would look like Martin.
“I’m also my parent’s child, and my life matters as well,” Zimmerman said, identifying the president by his full name, “Barack Hussein Obama.”
“He by far overstretched, overreached, even broke the law in certain aspects to where you have an innocent American being prosecuted by the federal government,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman was acquitted of murder in state court, and the Justice Department found insufficient evidence that he intentionally violated Martin’s civil rights.
He called his conscience clean over the shooting, which he maintained was self-defense.
“You cannot as a human feel guilty for living, for surviving,” he said.
Zimmerman said he was portrayed as a “racist white man,” despite coming from a multicultural family in which he was raised by a Hispanic mother and grandmother.
While he felt the U.S. justice system should not have forced him to stand trial, Zimmerman was satisfied with the outcome.
“I was acquitted, and I am a free man,” he said, adding that he was further validated by the Justice Department’s decision not to bring civil rights charges.
A video recording and transcript of his interview can be viewed online: here
Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Eric Beech
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