ABOVE PHOTO: George Zimmerman, left, and attorney Don West appear before Circuit Judge Kenneth R. Lester, Jr. during a bond hearing at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center last month in Sanford, Fla. A Florida judge on Thursday, July 5, 2012, granted bond for a second time to George Zimmerman. Bail was set at $1 million.
(AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool)
George Zimmerman is out of jail again, but the rules have changed since the last time he was released on bail after being charged in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.
When he was freed in April, Zimmerman was allowed to leave Florida — his ultimate destination kept secret by his attorneys for his safety. He had a 7 PM. to 6 AM curfew and couldn’t have any guns, but beyond that Zimmerman enjoyed many of the freedoms of people not facing a murder charge.
Now a judge who believes Zimmerman misled the court about his finances is requiring him to stay in Seminole County. He also must be electronically monitored, can’t open a bank account, obtain a passport or set foot on the grounds of the local airport. He has a 6 PM to 6 AM curfew.
Still, one of Zimmerman’s attorneys said his client is “very happy to be out.”
“Certainly it’s been a sobering experience spending the last month in jail in that kind of environment,” Don West, one of Zimmerman’s attorneys, told reporters outside the jail Friday.
Zimmerman will stay in a “safe house” before relocating to a permanent home, and he has hired a security team, according to information posted on a website run by his legal team.
The former neighborhood watch volunteer is charged with second-degree murder for fatally shooting Martin, an unarmed black teenager whom he encountered and fought with while patrolling his community in February.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set Zimmerman’s bail at $1 million, and Zimmerman walked out of Seminole County Jail on Friday wearing a white shirt and dress jacket and got into an SUV, ignoring shouted questions from nearby reporters.
Zimmerman had been released on a $150,000 bond in April in the shooting, but the judge revoked it last month after prosecutors presented evidence that Zimmerman and his wife misled the court about how much money they had available to pay for the bond. They didn’t tell the judge that donations from a website for Zimmerman’s legal defense had raised around $135,000 at the time of his first bond hearing.
Prosecutors argued Zimmerman and his wife talked in code during recorded jailhouse conversations about how to transfer the donations to different bank accounts. For example, George Zimmerman at one point asked how much money they had. She replied “$155.” Prosecutors allege that was code for $155,000. Their reference to “Peter Pan” was code for the PayPal system through which the donations were made, prosecutors said.
Shellie Zimmerman faces arraignment at the end of July on a perjury charge; she is free on bond.
Zimmerman’s attorneys said Thursday that there was $211,000 in an account, which included the amount raised from Zimmerman’s website and also money generated from another website set up by his legal team. An additional $20,000 was raised in the day after Lester issued the $1 million bond order.
Zimmerman had to pay a bond company $100,000 but also needed $1 million in collateral to secure the bail, his legal team said.
West refused to comment on what was being used as collateral after Zimmerman left the jail.
“We worked that out,” West said.
Shortly before Zimmerman’s release, the Rev. Al Sharpton criticized Zimmerman for raising money through online donations. The civil rights leader and talk-show host was in New Orleans with Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton.
“Now we see where they’re soliciting money, saying, ‘If you would have done the same thing, send money to help with his bond,’ showing no remorse over the loss of human life,” Sharpton said.
Court documents show that Zimmerman’s parents are using their house as security for the bond. But Zimmerman likely didn’t put up $1 million worth of collateral because the amount can be negotiated with the bond company and the insurance company backing the bond, said David Engel, an Orlando-area bail bondsman.
“Do they have a $1 million worth of collateral? I’m sure they don’t,” Engel said. “There’s nothing set in stone regarding what we have to take. It’s up to us what we decide between us and the insurance companies.”
During Zimmerman’s second bond hearing, his attorney, Mark O’Mara, said that his client was confused, fearful and experienced a moment of weakness when he and his wife misled the court.
The judge didn’t buy it and expressed his unhappiness with Zimmerman and his wife in his second bond order. He accused Zimmerman of making plans to flee to avoid prosecution, misleading O’Mara by not disclosing the money from the website and trying to manipulate the judicial system.
“Under any definition, the defendant has flaunted the system,” Lester wrote.
But the judge said current law limited his ability to deny a second application for bond.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and claims the shooting was self-defense under the state’s “stand your ground” law. Zimmerman and Martin got into an altercation last February inside a gated community in Sanford, Fla.
Martin’s parents and supporters claim that the unarmed teenager was targeted because he was black and that Zimmerman started the confrontation that led to the shooting. Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is Hispanic.
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