George Zimmerman to seek new bond hearing

The Miami HeraldJune 4, 2012 

With his deadline looming, George Zimmerman turned himself over to authorities on Sunday in another legal drama surrounding the man accused of shooting Trayvon Martin in a death that continues to galvanize the nation.

Dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans, the 28-year-old bounded out of a minivan and was led into the Polk Correctional Facility two days after a judge revoked his bond over accusations that he lied about his finances.

The former neighborhood watch captain surrendered to deputies at 1:25 p.m. in a parking lot near Interstate 4 — a bit heavier now, with his once-cropped hair grown out — and was hauled to jail.

“He’s solemn. He has a real concern for his safety,” his lawyer, Mark O’Mara, told reporters outside the Sanford facility.

For weeks, Zimmerman was living in a secluded location when prosecutors surprised the court on Friday, accusing him of lying during a prior bond hearing about being broke when he actually had $135,000 from donations for his defense.

Prosecutors said they also found he had failed to give up one of his valid passports.

The latest charges set off a storm of protests from victims’ groups in a death that continues to stir debate over racial inequities and Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.

O’Mara refused to disclose where Zimmerman had been staying since his earlier release, saying his client had received “significant threats against his life,” but that he had always planned on surrendering by 2:30 p.m. — the deadline imposed by Judge Kenneth Lester.

The attorney said he would ask for a new bond hearing on Monday, insisting Zimmerman is “still entitled to a bond” under Florida law.

In an earlier statement on his website, O’Mara said he hoped his client’s surrender “will help demonstrate to the court that he is not a flight risk.”

In a death that has already sparked widespread argument over what took place on the night Zimmerman crossed paths with the Martin, a 17-year-old from Miami Gardens, a new issue has emerged: whether the suspect lied at his bond hearing — and whether he should stay in jail until his trial.

Prosecutors charged that Zimmerman and his wife falsely testified at the hearing in April that they had little money, when they had actually amassed $135,000 from contributors across the country. That amount has since reached more than $200,000.

Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, said during the hearing she had no idea how much money was flowing into the account and that they had little money in their savings, prompting the judge to impose a $150,000 bond instead of the much higher amount demanded by prosecutors: $1 million.

After putting up $15,000 — 10 percent of the total — Zimmerman walked out on April 20 with an ankle bracelet monitor.

But during a meeting with reporters Sunday, O’Mara said most of the donated money was in an independent trust that neither Zimmerman or his lawyers could tap.

He also pointed out the judge dismissed any serious problem over the missing passport, likening it to a lost driver’s license.

He lost an original passport from 2002 and then ordered a replacement before finding the original. Though he turned in one, he didn’t hand over the other.

Asked about the possibility that Zimmerman’s wife could be charged with perjury, O’Mara said the judge has the power to impose contempt charges but that he did not want to speculate.

He said Zimmerman “understands the court’s concerns. . . . He understands the state’s concerns,” and that the couple’s statements at the bond hearing would “have to be rehabilitated.”

Since Zimmerman waived his right to a speedy trial, he could now be waiting in jail a long time, said his lawyer. “It is anticipated, though not certain, that the case will not be ready for trial until some time into 2013.”

For now, Zimmerman is confined by himself in a single cell — 67 square feet — for his own protection, equipped with a toilet and two beds. He has $500 in his jail account.

As his attorney presses for a new hearing, another issue emerging is whether the bond revocation will undermine his defense.

“The other key witness, unfortunately, is deceased,” said Randy McClean, a former Orange County assistant state attorney.

“Basically, Zimmerman is going to be asking the jury to believe his version of the facts. . .. As the case stands now, his credibility is absolutely critical to the case.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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