BLM Activist Shaun King Quietly Settles Defamation Suit With Candidate He Said Framed Man for Murder

King's super PAC sent $75,000 to law firm representing former Philly DA hopeful Carlos Vega

Shaun King / Getty Images
August 1, 2023

Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King and his left-wing super PAC quietly settled a defamation lawsuit with former Philadelphia district attorney candidate Carlos Vega, who King falsely accused of framing a black man for murder.

King's Real Justice PAC on April 12 paid $75,000 to the law firm representing Vega, according to campaign finance records. Vega—who ran against Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner—sued Real Justice PAC, King, and Krasner in May 2021 for defamation after King called Vega a "real life supervillain" and accused him of framing a black man who was falsely convicted of rape and murder in the 1990s.

"I previously posted that Carlos framed and convicted Anthony Wright of rape and murder in 1993 and that Carlos has lied about it for generations," King, who served as a surrogate for Bernie Sanders's presidential campaigns, wrote in an April 4 Instagram post. "I was wrong when I made those statements.⁣" Days later, on April 14, Vega agreed to settle and dismiss the lawsuit, according to court filings obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The settlement marks another setback for King, who has faced allegations of financial mismanagement at his activist groups and of making false allegations in high-profile criminal cases. In 2019, King falsely identified a white man named Robert Cantrell as the possible killer of a 7-year-old black girl in Houston. King posted a photo of Cantrell online and suggested he was racist. Two black men were later charged with the killing. Cantrell committed suicide several months later.

Deray McKesson, a former ally of King’s in the Black Lives Matter movement, also accused King of committing fraud at his activist groups. The mother of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy killed by police, said King "robbed" her by holding unauthorized fundraisers in her son's name. King has denied the fraud allegations.

The Vega lawsuit has proved expensive for Real Justice PAC, which aims to elect prosecutors to "reduce mass incarceration, police violence, and injustice." The committee has paid $460,472 to law firms representing it and King in the legal battle with Vega. Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife, Cari Tuna, poured more than $2.5 million into Real Justice PAC from 2017 to 2019, though large donations to the group have dried up in recent years.

Real Justice PAC has paid other legal settlements related to its work for Krasner. In 2019, the group paid $8,000 to the city of Philadelphia after an ethics panel found Real Justice PAC made excessive campaign contributions to Krasner’s campaign. Real Justice PAC in December 2021 paid the city another $30,000 for legal fees related to the investigation.

The legal payouts are the latest example of reckless spending by King’s political groups. Grassroots Law PAC, which is affiliated with Real Justice PAC, spent $40,000 last year to purchase a thoroughbred show dog for King’s family, the Free Beacon reported. King returned the dog months later, claiming it did not get along with his family. Grassroots Law PAC has paid $257,790 to the firms involved in Vega’s lawsuit.

Grassroots Law’s nonprofit arm tripled its salary to King in 2021 as the charity’s revenues fell more than 60 percent. Grassroots Law paid $60,000 to King’s media company to rent its email list.