Judge wants answers about $200,000 'Real George Zimmerman' defense fund
George Zimmerman, charged with second-degree murder in the Trayvon Martin shooting, received a $150,000 bond after his family claimed meager means. What the court wasn't told was that Zimmerman had $204,000 in a PayPal account.
Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/AP
Mark O’Mara, the attorney representing George Zimmerman, told the judge in the Trayvon Martin shooting case Friday that his client had much more money on hand than he had revealed to the court at his bond hearing on April 20.
Mr. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, stands accused of second-degree murder for the shooting of Trayvon on Feb. 26, which led to a national uproar after local police originally declined to file charges.
At the bond hearing, Zimmerman’s parents said they had few means to raise the $15,000 necessary to pay a bail bondsman to post a bond to free Zimmerman, who left prison on April 22 with a GPS anklet. But at the time, Zimmerman had at least $150,000 that he had gleaned from a website called The RealGeorgeZimmerman.com.
Given that revelation, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda asked US District Judge Kenneth Lester to reexamine the bond arrangement. Judge Lester asked Mr. O’Mara to compile a list of donors and when they made their payments.
“I may have authority or I may not,” Lester said. Lester could potentially adjust the bond or revoke it altogether, meaning Zimmerman would have to go back to jail to await trial.
The revelation came as Florida prepares for its most high-profile trial since the Casey Anthony trial last year, in which a mother accused of murdering her young daughter was found not guilty in Orlando, about 30 miles from Sanford, Fla., where Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, on Feb. 26.
While civil rights activists rallied with Trayvon’s family to have Zimmerman arrested, others donated to Zimmerman’s defense, which may cost as much as $1 million.
Forty-four days after local police freed Zimmermann without arrest, saying they had no probable cause to doubt his claims of self-defense, a special prosecutor in Seminole County filed a second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman, claiming that he had used excessive and unreasonable force against a minor.
The case has galvanized public opinion, becoming a lens for broader debates about race relations and liberalized American gun laws. Those who support Zimmerman believe his version of events: that Trayvon attacked him by punching him in the face and beating the back of his head against a concrete sidewalk, enough to justify defending himself with deadly force under Florida law.
Prosecutors, however, say Zimmerman “profiled” Trayvon, who was “minding his own business,” as a criminal, pursued him against the advice of a 911 dispatcher, and “confronted” Trayvon without cause.
Ben Crump, the Martin family’s attorney, said Thursday that Zimmerman’s decision to withhold information about his defense fund from his lawyer and the court suggests a character issue that could affect the case. “The lying has begun,” Mr. Crump told CNN.
O’Mara says he took control over the defense fund on Wednesday. Some see an atmosphere of threat and intimidation arising around the Zimmerman case. Witnesses to the shooting have expressed fear about their names being revealed to the press, which Florida’s progressive “sunshine” laws could mandate.
O’Mara also asked the judge to consider keeping Zimmerman’s donor list secret, because people on the list could be subject to threats or unwanted public scrutiny, as well. Zimmerman has shut down his website and Twitter account, O'Mara added. “He has no more Internet presence, all his websites are down,” the attorney said.