Angela Corey, the controversial prosecutor at the center of the George Zimmerman trial, was served with a lawsuit Thursday by a former employee claiming he was unlawfully fired.
Ben Kruidbos, a former IT worker for the state attorney’s office, is seeking more than $5 million in damages from the Florida State Attorney’s office.
Kruidbos claims he was fired in retaliation for testifying at a June hearing, in which Zimmerman’s attorneys sought sanctions against prosecutors for withholding evidence – the evidence in question being unflattering photos taken from the cellphone of Trayvon Martin.
During the hearing, Kruidbos testified that he recovered images from Martin’s phone, including photos of jewelry, marijuana plants, and a hand holding a gun. The pictures and some texts would later be ruled inadmissible but became a point of contention in the trail as Zimmerman’s defense team claimed the evidence was withheld from them by the state until shortly before the murder trial began.
Kruidbos, through his attorney, informed Zimmerman’s defense team that the images existed. He would later explain in court that he felt compelled to do so saying, “All the information is important in the process to ensure it’s a fair trial” and that he feared he would be liable if he didn’t.
On the day jurors began deliberating in the case, Kruidbos received a six-page termination letter that slammed him for his actions. The Florida State Attorney’s Office, Fourth Judicial Circuit Managing Director Cheryl R. Peek called Kruidbos’ stated concern of possible liability “feigned and spurious” and “nothing more than shameful manipulation in a shallow, but obvious, attempt to cloak yourself in the protection of the whistleblower law.”
“Florida law provides whistleblower protection making a termination in such a circumstance ‘wrongful.’ Florida has taken the protection of the law a significant step further by making that conduct ‘unlawful’ if the individual testified pursuant to a subpoena. The lawsuit alleges that Corey’s office acted unlawfully,” said Kruidbos’ attorney, Wesley White, in a statement to theGrio.
Corey’s office will not comment on the lawsuit but has published Kruidbos’ termination letter on the State Attorney’s website in response.
Zimmerman’s defense team, led by attorney Mark O’Mara, is also seeking sanctions against Corey’s office. During the trial, they filed a motion against the prosecution claiming that evidence was withheld. Just Friday, at a luncheon in Orlando, O’Mara said to a crowd of attorneys, “I am not done with that motion. I’m not done with Angela Corey. And we are going to be seeing more of each other.
Follow Donovan X. Ramsey at @iDXR