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The parents of Kendrick Johnson, the Georgia teenager whose lifeless body was mysteriously found rolled up in a wrestling mat at his high school two years ago, have filed a $100 million lawsuit against 38 people —including local, state and federal law enforcement officials and three classmates.
Kendrick, 17, a member of the wrestling team at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, in southern Georgia, was found upside down in the rolled-up mat on Jan. 11, 2013, when other students climbed on a 6-foot-tall stack of the stored mats.
In a civil suit filed Monday in Superior Court in DeKalb County, in metro Atlanta, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Jackson accuse the respondents of cooking up a conspiracy to make sure no one is ever prosecuted for Kendrick's death. The lawsuit names juveniles it accuses of crimes, even though an official autopsy found that Kendrick died of asphyxiation and investigators ruled his death an accident.
Michael Moore, the U.S. attorney for middle, said in a statement last week that a federal investigation remains open because the case has "proven more complicated" than he expected..
Among the respondents are an FBI agent whom the suit accuses of ordering his two sons to attack Kendrick along with a classmate and two other unnamed people. That agent has sued Ebony magazine for libel and slander for articles that he says falsely associated him and his sons with Kendrick's death. Ebony has since removed the articles from its website.
Other respondents include the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, five GBI agents, the Valdosta police chief, numerous sheriff's deputies, the state medical examiner and the Lowndes County school superintendent, the Valdosta-Lowndes crime lab and the City of Valdosta, all of whom the Johnsons accuse of taking part in a conspiracy to cover up what they allege was Kendrick's murder.
"Defendants from the various law enforcement agencies deliberately and maliciously mishandled the subject investigation in such a way that anyone who might ever be charged with Kendrick's death would never be convicted," it says.
Lowndes County Attorney Jim Elliot called the allegations "unfounded," saying in a statement that any response to the "baseless accusations" would be made in court.
The lawsuit — the second the family has filed, following an action against the school board in July 2013 — couldn't be brought in Lowndes County because all of the local Superior Court judges have recused themselves. Chief Judge Harry J. Altman said in it was inappropriate for the local judges to preside because so many "officials with whom the judges in the circuit deal with every day are involved."