DOCUMENT: Celebrity, Internet

Elderly Couple Sues Spike Lee Over Tweet

Post claimed George Zimmerman lived at pair's home

Spike Lee

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Spike Lee Twitter Suit

NOVEMBER 8--An elderly Florida couple has filed a negligence lawsuit against Spike Lee, alleging that the film director claimed in a Twitter message that George Zimmerman lived at their Sanford home, a mistake that prompted a flood of death threats being directed at them.

One month after Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in February 2012, Lee sent out a tweet to his 240,000 followers that included what purported to be Zimmerman’s home address in Sanford.

The address was actually the longtime residence of Elaine and David McClain, a married couple with no connection to Zimmerman. The McClains are pictured at right.

As TSG reported last year, Lee retweeted a message containing the bogus Zimmerman address. The original source of that misinformation was a California man who sent the purported Zimmerman address to Lee and an assortment of celebrities with the direction, “EVERYBODY REPOST THIS.”

After Lee tweeted the McClains’ address, the senior citizens--Elaine is 71, David is 73--said that they feared for their lives in light of Twitter and Facebook messages directing individuals to go to their Edgewater Circle home and seek to harm Zimmerman. “We're keeping everything locked,” Elaine told TSG last March. She added, “Maybe we should get a lawyer and send a cease and desist letter to Spike Lee.”

In the face of widespread criticism, Lee contacted the McClains and apologized for disseminating their address. He also quickly entered into a $10,000 settlement agreement with the couple.

The McClains now contend that “prior to, during, and after” Zimmerman’s murder trial--which ended in a mid-July acquittal of the neighborhood watch captain—their address was “massively circulated among social networking sites.”

In the couple’s lawsuit--which was filed in Florida Circuit Court--the McClains accuse Lee of “encouraging a dangerous mob mentality among his Twitter followers, as well as the public-at-large.” The lawsuit alleges that the pair has suffered “injuries and damages” subsequent to the March 29, 2012 settlement struck with Lee.

The complaint does not specify monetary damages. However, a court filing by Lee’s attorney reports that the McClains’s counsel had valued the lawsuit at $1.2 million. (7 pages)