Skip to main content

Family files $5 million lawsuit over Ebony stories on Kendrick Johnson case

By Victor Blackwell, CNN
updated 5:41 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Kendrick Johnson's body was found in a rolled-up gym mat in January 2013.
Kendrick Johnson's body was found in a rolled-up gym mat in January 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Slander and libel suit names Ebony magazine publisher, writer Frederic Rosen
  • Lawsuit says stories imply that brothers played a part in Kendrick Johnson's death
  • 17-year-old was found in rolled-up gym mat at Georgia high school last year
  • Sheriff's office said death was accident; parents say there was a cover-up

(CNN) -- The parents of two former schoolmates of Kendrick Johnson's have filed a $5 million slander and libel lawsuit in federal court against the publisher of Ebony magazine and writer Frederic Rosen.

The lawsuit, dated Wednesday, claims that stories written by Rosen and published in Ebony magazine and on Ebony.com imply that the brothers played a part in Johnson's death and their father was involved in a conspiracy to cover it up.

The claim that the brothers played any part in the death "is completely untrue," according to the lawsuit.

Johnson, 17, was found dead in the center of a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia, in January 2013. The Lowndes County Sheriff's Office determined that his death was an accident and closed its investigation in May 2013.

Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson believe that their son was beaten to death and that investigators have covered up his murder.

The U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Michael Moore, launched a federal investigation into Johnson's death and into the local investigation in October. The federal investigation is pending.

Rosen's reporting on Johnson's death has been removed from Ebony.com

Johnson Publishing Inc. and Rosen declined to comment on the lawsuit.

CNN is not naming the students mentioned in the lawsuit because none of them has been named a suspect in the death of Johnson.

School officials sued over Kendrick Johnson death

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Kendrick Johnson
updated 11:03 AM EDT, Wed May 14, 2014
The family of Kendrick Johnson has sued a south Georgia school district claiming it was negligent in protecting their son from harassment and bullying, which they contend led to his death.
updated 8:24 AM EDT, Fri March 21, 2014
The Lowndes County, Georgia, Sheriff's Office does not believe an anonymous e-mail claiming that a former schoolmate confessed to killing Kendrick Johnson is credible.
updated 10:05 PM EST, Thu November 7, 2013
In a scathing report recently obtained by CNN, the coroner in the case of a Georgia teen found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat blasted how the initial investigation was handled.
updated 8:59 PM EST, Wed November 6, 2013
CNN obtained new video from inside the gym where Valdosta, Georgia, teen Kendrick Johnson was found dead.
updated 5:38 PM EDT, Fri May 10, 2013
Bearing the loss of a child is unimaginable to most.
updated 8:47 AM EDT, Thu October 10, 2013
The death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was awful enough for his parents. Then came the doubts about investigators' conclusion that it was an accident.
updated 9:25 PM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
The family of Kendrick Johnson says a new and grisly photo of their son after his death proves the teen was murdered.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Wed October 9, 2013
For the local sheriff's department, the death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson is a closed book: A tragedy, but an accident.
updated 9:11 PM EDT, Fri October 11, 2013
CNN's Anderson Cooper speaks with the parents of Kendrick Johnson about his death at a Valdosta, Georgia high school gym.
updated 10:17 PM EDT, Tue September 3, 2013
Kendrick Johnson, the teenager whose body was found rolled in a wrestling mat in a south Georgia high school died from blows to the neck and elsewhere.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT