Zimmerman Lawyer Argues for New Bond
By Alan Duke
(CNN) — George Zimmerman “accepts full responsibility” for misleading a judge about his finances, his lawyer said in a motion requesting a “reasonable bond” be set for his release from jail.
Zimmerman, 28, is a neighborhood watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, 17, in a Sanford, Florida, neighborhood in February. He told police he shot the teenager in self-defense and has pleaded not guilty.
He was ordered back to jail earlier this month, when a Florida judge who set his bond in April revoked it, citing the misrepresentation of about $150,000 in donations in an account controlled by Zimmerman that he had not disclosed at the April 20 bond hearing.
“Mr. Zimmerman’s failure to advise the court of the existence of the donated funds at the initial bail hearing was wrong and Mr. Zimmerman accepts responsibility for his part in allowing the court to be misled as to his true financial circumstances,” lead defense attorney Mark O’Mara wrote in a motion filed Friday. “Counsel, however, points to Mr. Zimmerman’s voluntary disclosure of the fund and immediate surrender of any interest in the donated money through transfer of the fund to counsel for deposit in trust.”
The money is now “under the control of an independent trustee and is not accessible to Mr. Zimmerman or his family,” the motion said. “Any expenditure on behalf of Mr. Zimmerman must be approved by the fund administrator.”
Zimmerman does have $20,000 “for ongoing living expenses,” the motion said.
O’Mara is asking Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. to set a bond similar to the $150,000 bond initially given Zimmerman, arguing that he poses no danger to the community, is not a flight risk, and “cooperated fully” with police before his arrest.
“While released on the court’s initial bond, Mr. Zimmerman fully complied with the conditions of his release; and when directed to surrender himself after the court revoked, he did so timely,” the motion said.
A bond hearing is set for Friday.
His wife, Shellie Zimmerman, was arrested on a perjury charge on June 12, accused of lying at her husband’s bond hearing about the couple’s finances. She was released later that day after meeting the conditions of a $1,000 bond, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said.
Recordings of jailhouse phone calls showed that despite telling the court they were indigent during his April bond hearing, Zimmerman and his wife discussed — in code, according to prosecutors — money raised online to help in his defense.
Six calls made public Monday, out of about 151 total that Zimmerman made while incarcerated, appear to back up the prosecutor’s assertions.
At her husband’s April 20 bond hearing, Shellie Zimmerman testified she didn’t know how much had been raised through the website her husband had set up before charges were filed.
And when asked whether the couple had money available to assist in his defense, she replied, “Um, not — not that I’m aware of.”
In one jailhouse phone conversation, Zimmerman asks his wife, “In my account, do I have at least $100?” She answers no, and then tells him he has more like “$8, $8.60.”
“So total everything, how much are we looking at?” Zimmerman asks his wife.
“Like $155,” she responds.
Prosecutors claim the husband and wife were speaking in a type of code about their available funds, an assertion Zimmerman’s lawyer said the defense has “never contested.”
“There’s no question that they were talking in this sort of simplistic kind of code, where they were talking about $155 when, without question, they were talking about $155,000,” O’Mara told CNN’s Piers Morgan.
In another call, Zimmerman asked his wife to “pay off all the bills,” including Sam’s Club and American Express bills, prosecutors said.
The couple also discussed how much money can be accessed and what to do with it, including transferring funds that were raised online for his defense to accounts belonging to Zimmerman’s sister and wife, prosecutors said in a probable cause affidavit.
Prosecutors alleged the couple actually had about $135,000 of donations at their disposal when they both told the court, under oath, they were indigent.
O’Mara, Zimmerman’s lawyer, later said his client ended up netting a total of $204,000 via PayPal accounts — about $150,000 of which is now in an independently managed trust after $30,000 was used to pay for “life in hiding” and $20,000 has been kept liquid.
CNN’s Vivian Kuo contributed to this report.