BY RENE STUTZMAN
ORLANDO SENTINEL / TNS
ORLANDO – In his first public comments since the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not prosecute him for violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights, George Zimmerman says President Obama victimized him.
The president should never have allowed the DOJ investigation and is guilty of ramping up racial tension when he said, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman is the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who killed Martin, an unarmed Black 17-year-old, in Sanford on Feb. 26, 2012, setting off civil rights demonstrations across the country and beyond. A Seminole County jury acquitted Zimmerman of manslaughter in 2013.
Zimmerman went into hiding after the shooting and has rejected most media requests for interviews.
But on March 8, he video-recorded an interview in Orlando with his Tampa-based divorce lawyer, Howard Iken.
In it, he faulted the media for portraying him as a racist and the criminal justice system for bringing him to trial, but saved his harshest criticism for Obama – whom he accused of trying to prosecute “an innocent American.”
“For him to make incendiary comments as he did and direct the Department of Justice to pursue a baseless prosecution, he by far overstretched, overreached,” Zimmerman said. The president, who he referred to as “Barack Hussein Obama,” should have told the public, “ ‘Let’s not rush to judgment,’ ” Zimmerman said.
On Feb. 24, the Department of Justice announced that it would file no charges against Zimmerman and was closing its 3-year-old investigation. According to Iken, federal authorities have not returned to Zimmerman the Kel-Tec 9mm semiautomatic pistol that he used to kill Martin.
“Do you have a clean conscience at this point?” the lawyer asked about the shooting.
“Do you wish (it)…had turned out differently?”
“I believe that the American judicial system failed in the sense that I should not even (have) gone to trial, but I do believe that the jury process succeeded,” Zimmerman said.
He said he’s convinced there’s nothing he could have done differently that would have allowed both he and Martin to survive their confrontation that night.
“In all fairness, you cannot as a human feel guilty for living, for surviving,” he said.
“Are you the same person right now that you were five years ago?” Iken asked.
“Absolutely not,” Zimmerman said. “I have to have my guard up…I still believe that people are truly good at heart, as Anne Frank has said, and I will put myself in any position to help another human in any way I can.”