ABOVE PHOTO: George Zimmerman, June 3, 2012..
(AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joshua C. Cruey, Pool)
By Kirsten West Savali
U.S. air marshal and former Seminole County sheriff’s deputy Mark Osterman, has been identified as the law enforcement insider possibly pulling strings for George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watchman guilty of killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, as he navigates through the court system and Sanford Police Department relatively unscathed, reports MSNBC.com.
First, speculation surrounded the influence of Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman, a former magistrate judge from Virginia who many people assumed was paving a clear path to freedom for his son behind the scenes. Then it moved on to State Attorney Norm Wolfinger, who made the decision to side with Zimmerman on the night that he gunned down Trayvon. Wolfinger eventually stepped aside and was replaced by Gov. Rick Scott with special prosecutor Angela Corey.
But it was Osterman who was at Zimmerman’s side when he recreated the night of Trayvon’s death to detectives. It was Osterman, who is also a shooting buddy of Zimmerman’s, who allowed him to stay at his lake house for 6 weeks after the shooting as the world wondered where he was hiding. And it is Osterman who spoke on Zimmerman’s behalf in an FBI interview:
“Zimmerman is very concerned with all the negative reaction from the press and others and wants more evidence released to show what really happened,” Osterman told the FBI.
Lingering suspicions perked up again this week after prosecutors released evidence that showed an email connection between Zimmerman and now-fired Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, where the two exchanged amicable notes about the resolution of a case where a previous chief refused to charge the son of a police lieutenant for the beating of a homeless black man.
Moreover, Mr. Lee, who spent 30 years at the Seminole County Sheriff’s Department, may have known Osterman since their tenures at the department overlapped. At any one time, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Department has more than 500 employees.
Osterman was fired from the sheriff’s office in 1998 in the midst of a scandal where he and a fellow officer were duped into off-duty security gigs by a con man claiming to be a famous baseball star named Juan Diaz. Osterman took the job without getting permission from the sheriff, which compounded the embarrassment and led to his firing.
Osterman has since worked as a beach guard and since the early 2000s as a federal air marshal, which were hired in large numbers after 9/11 to provide covert security on flights.
In his April interview with the FBI, Osterman claimed Zimmerman was estranged from his parents until the shooting, and that he had feared the New Black Panther Party, which put a $10,000 bounty on Zimmerman after the shooting.
Though the official story continues to be that Zimmerman’s case is being handled with unbiased professionalism, in addition to the Osterman connection, Judge Kenneth Lester has also come under fire for releasing Zimmerman, a man whom he called a manipulator. Lester released Zimmerman on bond a second time, even after he — and his wife Shellie Zimmerman — lied about how much money he had during his first bail hearing, then also procured a second passport in a suspected attempt to flee the country.