Friday, June 1, 2012

The Urban Beat: George Zimmerman Bail Revoked

Hot off the press:

George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer charged with killing an unarmed black teen, may be sitting in jail until at least next year now that his bail has been revoked.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester ordered Zimmerman back to jail Friday during an afternoon court hearing. Zimmerman, who has been staying in an undisclosed location since he was released on bail April 23, has until Sunday at 2:30 p.m. to turn himself in.
His trial may not happen until 2013, his lawyer, Mark O'Mara, said.
Lester revoked the bond after a motion by the state prosecutor accused Zimmerman and his wife of lying to the court about their financial assets during his initial bond hearing April 20.
They said they had no money during that hearing, but Zimmerman and his wife had access to at least $135,000 that he raised through a website he set up before his bond hearing, the judge said.
Trayvon Martin was talking on his cell phone when he was shot and killed in February.
"They were well aware of the money available," Lester said. "Mr. Zimmerman can't sit back and let his wife testify falsely … nor can he allow his attorney to stand up and make misrepresentations."
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26. He told police he shot him in self-defense after the teen repeatedly knocked his head to the ground. Martin's family says Zimmerman racially profiled the teen and confronted him as he walked home from a convenience store.
Assistant state prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda argued in Friday's hearing that Zimmerman and his wife discussed the money raised through the website in multiple recorded conversations while Zimmerman was in jail and before his bond hearing.
He said Zimmerman spoke in shorthand to elude officers listening to the call, referring to $15,000 as "15" and $100,000 as "100."
"The defendant just sat there as his wife lied under oath," de la Rionda said. "The defendant wife's lied to this court when both Mr. O'Mara and the state asked her questions, when she stated she had no money.
"The defendant and his wife were very deceptive in the actions they took before this court," he said.
O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney, argued that the judge should consider how his client spent the money, on rent and living expenses, not whether he knew about the money.
"How they use the money is relevant," O'Mara said in his argument to Lester.
He called the issue an "innocent misunderstanding rather than a deviant intent to hide money from you."
The money was transferred to a defense fund run by a third party, O'Mara said.
Lester interrupted him, arguing that how Zimmerman spent the money had nothing to do with him acting as if he didn't know anything about it during the bond hearing.
O'Mara did not explain why Zimmerman did not say he knew about all the money he collected. O'Mara has said the account raised about $200,000.
Lester seemed most concerned about phone calls between Zimmerman and his wife while he was in jail that showed they knew of the tens of thousands of dollars he collected. The judge said Zimmerman and his wife talked about using the money to pay for his bond.
In one of the conversations, according to the state's motion, Zimmerman tells his wife, Shelly, "If the bond is more than 15, pay the 15."
Prosecutors said Zimmerman did not surrender a second passport, but the judge dismissed that concern, comparing it to losing a driver's license, applying for a new one, then finding the old one.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin, said everything Zimmerman says is suspect.
"His credibility is greatly in question," he said after the hearing.
The judge also ruled Friday to publicly release more documents related to the case. The prosecutor's office has tried to keep key evidence, including statements Zimmerman gave police and cellphone records for Zimmerman and Martin, sealed.
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