The parents of the Lowndes High School student named in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the parents of Kendrick Johnson returned legal fire Thursday, suing a Facebook group dedicated to the late teen’s memory.
Two unnamed defendants are accused of influencing Florida State University officials to withdraw its scholarship offer to Brian Bell, a heavily recruited linebacker who committed to the Seminoles last February.
On January 26, the Facebook group “Kendrick Johnson Memorial” posted a plea urging FSU to rescind their offer to Bell, alleging the 17-year-old “exhibited violent tendencies and a highly unusual appetite for fighting” while at Lowndes.
The suit filed by Johnson’s parents last month accused an unnamed female of luring their son into the old gym at Lowndes High where he was fatally beaten by Bell and his older brother. The siblings were acting at the behest of their father, FBI agent Rick Bell, according to the suit, which alleges a cover-up implicating the GBI, local law enforcement, school officials and virtually everyone else involved in the investigation into Johnson’s death, ruled an accident.
A federal probe, entering its 16th month, was subsequently launched. Bell and his brother received letters informing them they were targets of U.S. Attorney Michael Moore’s investigation, though neither one has been charged. The Lowndes sheriff found that the Bell brothers had alibis precluding any involvement in Johnson’s death, including surveillance footage that revealed neither boy was near the gym where “KJ” was last seen.
The Facebook group targeted by the Bells has been a popular destination for those who believe the couple’s youngest son killed Johnson. In their plea to FSU, the owners of the group labeled Bell a likely “psychopath,” another libelous claim, according to the Bell’s suit, which also alleges slander and seeks at least $9 million in damages.
“Defendants’ libelous statements have been repeated and embellished orally as well as broadcast on the internet, and therefore, constitute slander as well as libel,” the suit states.
Randy McPherson, Brian’s football coach at Lowndes High, said FSU head football coach Jimbo Fisher told him last Wednesday that the university’s president and athletic director were forcing him to withdraw Bell’s scholarship. Bell has yet to commit to another school.
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