Judge: George Zimmerman must surrender; bond revoked
SANFORD, Fla. — A judge on Friday revoked the bond of the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with murdering Trayvon Martin and ordered him returned to jail within 48 hours, saying George Zimmerman and his wife misled the court about how much money they had available when his bond was set at $150,000.
Prosecutors claim Zimmerman had $135,000 available that had been raised by a website he set up. Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, testified at the bond hearing in April that they had limited funds available since she was a nursing student and Zimmerman wasn’t working.
“He can’t sit back and obtain the benefit of a lower bond based upon those material falsehoods,” said Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester when he made his ruling.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara said the fact that Zimmerman and his wife never used the money for anything indicated “there was no deceit.” Since his release in late April, Zimmerman has been staying at an undisclosed location for his safety.
Prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda described the Zimmermans’ testimony as “misleading.”
“This court was led to believe they didn’t have a single penny,” said De la Rionda. “It was misleading and I don’t know what words to use other than it was a blatant lie.”
The judge said he would schedule a hearing after Zimmerman is back in custody so the neighborhood watch leader could explain himself.
Zimmerman is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder and claims self-defense. Zimmerman shot Martin in February during a confrontation at a gated community of townhouses in Sanford, Fla., where Zimmerman lived and where the 17-year-old Martin was visiting his father’s fiancé.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, said his clients have always said Zimmerman should remain in jail until trial, which O’Mara said he believed wouldn’t be until next year.
Crump was asked if he thought that if Zimmerman would be willing to lie about his finances that he would be willing to lie about what happen the night Martin was killed.
“We fully expect that the special prosecutor will make George Zimmerman’s credibility be front and center in this entire case,” Crump said. “And whatever dishonesty that comes forth by George Zimmerman that they can prove, you can best believe it will be the issue of this case and rightfully so.”
Prosecutors also said Zimmerman had failed to surrender a second passport, but Lester dismissed that concern as the equivalent of someone who has lost a driver’s license, applies for a new one and then finds the old driver’s license.
The delay in an arrest for 44 days prompted protests nationwide and led to Sanford’s police chief stepping aside so emotions could cool down.
At Friday’s court hearing, De la Rionda and O’Mara also asked a judge to stop the public release of witness names and statements made by Zimmerman to police officers. Those documents normally are part of the public record under Florida law, and the judge agreed.
Lester said he would order the release of the documents once he has reviewed them and redacted items that aren’t subject to disclosure under the state’s public records law.
The prosecutor had argued that the case would be tried in the public arena rather than the courtroom if the documents were made public.
“We are in a new age with Twitter, Facebook, and all these things I’ve never heard of before in my career,” De la Rionda said. “Everybody gets to find out intimate details about witnesses that never occurred before. Witnesses are going to be reluctant to get involved.”
A consortium of more than a dozen media groups, including The Associated Press, asked the judge to ignore the request, saying such records are presumed to be publicly available under Florida law.
Rachel Fugate, an attorney for the Orlando Sentinel, cited the Casey Anthony trial as an example of highly publicized case in which a jury was able to be seated despite intense media coverage.
The Florida mother was acquitted last year of killing her 2-year-old daughter.
“Discovery in Florida has traditionally been open … and Florida hasn’t encountered problems seating juries and giving defendants fair trials,” Fugate said.
O’Mara said Friday on a website that he doesn’t expect the case to be ready for trial until next year.
O’Mara said he expects to call on 50 witnesses who need to be deposed before he decides whether to file a “stand your ground” motion which would ask for a hearing before a judge without a jury.
At the hearing, Zimmerman would argue self-defense under the Florida law which gives wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat in a fight if people believe they are in danger of being killed or seriously injured.
This article was provided by The Associated Press Wire. (Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)