George Zimmerman Talks to the Loop 21 in Email Correspondence [Exclusive]
1 year ago
How a Loop 21 reporter tracked down the man claiming to be the Florida shooter
When NBC reporter and my fellow National Association of Black Journalists board member Mara Schiavocampo reported yesterday that George Zimmerman had started a website and was seeking contributions for his legal defense, I thought it was too good to be true.
But moments later, when Schiavocampo and fellow NBC and MSNBC reporters had confirmed the site's authenticity with Zimmerman's legal team, I threw off my skeptic's hat and went into reporter mode.
Was it possible to further prove if it was Zimmerman behind this relatively new site? Could I track down contact information for him using it?
About 20 minutes later, after a series of online searches and digging, I found myself in the midst of a seven-email exchange with a site administrator claiming to be Zimmerman himself. Our correspondence was brief and it's important to note that, without further confirmation from his legal team, it's impossible to confirm 100 percent that it was Zimmerman with whom I was speaking.
Calls to the Zimmerman legal team seeking confirmation that the man behind these emails is George Zimmerman himself were not immediately returned. Multiple members of the legal team representing Trayvon's family said this morning that they were not aware of Zimmerman speaking to any media outlets thus far.
The below account chronicles what we know to be confirmed, how I tracked down the site administrator claiming to be George Zimmerman and a complete account of our correspondence.
It's been more than a month since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by 28-year-old George Zimmerman after an altercation between the two in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman, the captain of his community's neighborhood watch, phoned police to report Trayvon as "suspicious" and later told police he shot the teen in self defense.
The Sanford police's decision not to arrest Zimmerman has sparked national headlines, protests and rallies calling for Zimmerman's arrest.
In the time that has passed, several sites claiming to collect donations for Zimmerman's defense fund have sprung up online. Last week, Zimmerman's legal team confirmed that his family would start a site to raise money. None of the other sites have been confirmed as authentic. That is, until yesterday.
Around 5:20 pm last night, NBC News and MSNBC reported that the Zimmerman legal team had confirmed the authenticity of a new site — www.therealgeorgezimmerman.com — and that Zimmerman himself was operating it.
With a confirmed website, I knew it might be possible to obtain contact information for Zimmerman (or whoever was operating the site).
The first step was running a "Who is" search using registry.com. That search revealed that the website had been registered using popular domain host GoDaddy.com. A similar "Who is" search showed that the domain registration was to a private email address, however a third party email address was listed in order to reach the domain owner.
A spokesperson for GoDaddy declined to comment on the site or who the domain is registered to, referring inquires to the information page for Domains by Proxy, a third party privacy organization (owned by Go Daddy founder Bob Parsons) that allows domain owners to remain anonymous by registering sites in the company's name..
At 5:35 pm I sent the below message to that email address.
date: Mon, Apr 9, 2012 at 5:35 PM
subject: Confirming authenticity
To whom it may concern,
I am a freelance reporter who has worked on multiple stories concerning the Trayvon Martin case. I am hoping to confirm that the site launched today and registered earlier this month (www.therealgeorgezimmerman.com) is in fact being run by George Zimmerman and his supporters.