Seminole County Florida Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. Revokes Zimmerman’s Bond Because His Wife Lied About Finances – Charged After Killing Druggie In Self Defense

June 1, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – A Florida judge revoked bond Friday for George Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin.

Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. ordered Zimmerman to surrender to the county sheriff no later than Sunday afternoon.

Lester accused Zimmerman of having misrepresented how much money he had when his bond was originally set in April. Prosecutors say he had $135,000 at the time Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, told the court, under oath, that they were indigent.

The prosecution cited as evidence recorded telephone conversations that Zimmerman had with his wife prior to the hearing. The conversations were recorded while Zimmerman was being held in the Seminole County Jail after being charged with second-degree murder on April 11.

He has pleaded not guilty and has been free on bail.

Martin, 17, was fatally shot February 26 while walking in a Sanford, Florida, neighborhood where he was staying during a visit with his father. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, told police he shot the teenager in self-defense.

“The defense, through Mrs. Zimmerman, lied to this court about the amount of money that they had,” said trial prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda. “I don’t know what words to use other than it was a blatant lie.”

Outside the courthouse, a lawyer for the family of Martin said Friday’s decision is significant. “Judge Lester’s finding that George Zimmerman was dishonest is very important because his credibility is the most important thing in this entire case,” Benjamin Crump told reporters.

The killing spurred protests among people who criticized police handling of the investigation and said Martin, who was unarmed and carrying a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea at the time he was killed, was racially profiled. The teen was African-American; Zimmerman is Hispanic.

In court documents, State Attorney Angela B. Corey also said that Zimmerman had two passports, and the passport that he surrendered to the court at the April hearing was one that Zimmerman had reported stolen on March 8, 2004. That passport was valid until May 2012, Corey said.

Zimmerman was issued a second passport on March 26, 2004, and that one is valid until 2014, she said.

The prosecutor asked the court that Zimmerman be ordered to surrender the second passport to authorities.

But Lester appeared to accept the explanation from Zimmerman’s lawyer that his client had given him the second passport, and the lawyer simply forgot to hand it over to authorities until Friday.

Regarding Zimmerman’s finances, Corey alleged that in the recorded phone calls in April the couple “spoke in code to hide what they were doing” regarding the money in a credit union account belonging to the couple.

The money was apparently donated by members of the public to Zimmerman’s website.

Zimmerman “fully controlled and participated in the transfer of money from the PayPal account to defendant and his wife’s credit union accounts,” Corey said in court records. “This occurred prior to the time defendant was arguing to the court that he was indigent and his wife had no money.”

In late April, Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, said that the money raised by the website was put into a trust account that the attorney controls.

But Corey stated Friday in the court documents: “The money still belongs to defendant and he can demand it at any time.”

Court papers provided a partial transcript of a phone call allegedly showing the code used by Zimmerman and his wife on April 16:

Zimmerman: “In my account do I have at least $100?”

His wife: “No.”

Zimmerman: “How close am I?”

His wife: “$8. $8.60.”

Zimmerman: “Really. So total everything how much are we looking at?”

His wife: “Like $155.”

The prosecutor said the judge “relied on false representations and statements” by Zimmerman and his wife when the court set his bond at $150,000. He was required to post only 10% of that.

Corey argued that the court should revoke the bond or increase it “substantially.”

Lester appeared angry that the court had not been told about the money. “Does your client get to sit there like a potted palm and let you lead me down the primrose path?” he asked Zimmerman’s lawyer. “That’s the issue.”

O’Mara told CNN on Friday night that he had discussed the judge’s decision with Zimmerman, who was not in court on Friday. “He’s frustrated because he now has to come out of hiding,” O’Mara told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“You need to realize we’re still talking about a 28-year-old who’s being charged with a crime he does not believe he committed, and his whole life has been turned upside down, so I think that it all needs to be kept in context.”

O’Mara added that he hoped the judge’s revocation of bond would be temporary. “We’re going to have a conversation with the judge to try to explain it away. Hopefully, that will be worthwhile and we’re going to get back out on bond.”

Meanwhile, Zimmerman’s defense team and prosecutors were both on the same side in court Friday afternoon fighting media companies’ request to release more information in the case.

Prosecution and defense lawyers argued that a host of material should remain sealed.

The intense public attention on the case is a chief reason certain information should remain out of the public eye, de la Rionda said in a motion filed earlier this month.

He argued that releasing too much “will result in this matter being tried in the press rather than in court, and an inability to seat a fair and impartial jury in Seminole County.” De la Rionda also voiced worries about witnesses being “reluctant to testify” for fear that their privacy would be violated and other witnesses being “harassed by media representatives.”

Specifically, the state wants the names and addresses of witnesses kept out of the public record. It asks for the same for crime scene and autopsy photos, a 911 recording of the incident, and cell phone records of Martin, Zimmerman and one witness.

De la Rionda is also requesting a judge seal statements Zimmerman made to law enforcement officers, some of which may be used against him at trial because they were “inconsistent with the physical evidence and statements of witnesses.”

O’Mara filed his own motion agreeing with the prosecution’s desire not to release material. He said the defense wants 1,000 e-mails received by Sanford police to be sealed, plus statements by Zimmerman. He asked that text messages, e-mail messages or journals made by the defendant be kept private, at least until they can be reviewed.

Scott Ponce of the Miami-based law firm Holland & Knight argued for more disclosure on behalf of various newspapers, TV stations and their parent companies.

The opposing arguments were laid out in motions filed in advance of Friday’s hearing.

This week, Ponce filed responses to the prosecution and defense positions, addressing them point by point.

“The broad secrecy the state seeks … is not supported by statute, constitution or case law, and it certainly cannot be justified in this prosecution,” he said.

Ponce argued that civilian witnesses’ names and addresses cannot be sealed under Florida’s public records law, because they would not be “defamatory” or “jeopardize the safety” of a witness. He said the state hasn’t proven anyone is in jeopardy. The contested cell phone records may be reviewed and, if need be, have parts redacted, but they shouldn’t be withheld entirely, he said.

Ponce said Zimmerman’s statements to police should not be treated as “confessions,” which would not be made public before trial.

The judge expressed sympathy for the prosecution and defense attorneys but said, “The law is against us.” He noted that the law in Florida “favors full, complete, open disclosure.”

Lester said he would review the discovery request and release material “in a redacted fashion.”

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Zimmerman Spoke In Public Forum A Year Ago In Support Of Black Homeless Man Beaten By Son Of Sanford Florida Police Officer And Covered Up By Corrupt Department

May 24, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman accused a Florida police department of corruption more than a year before he shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, saying at a public forum the agency covered up the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white officer.

Zimmerman’s public comments could be important because the Martin family and supporters contend the neighborhood watch volunteer singled Martin out because he was black. Zimmerman has a Peruvian mother and a white father. His supporters have said he is not racist.

Zimmerman, who claims the Feb. 26 shooting was self-defense, was initially not arrested. But after nationwide protests and an investigation by a state prosecutor, he was charged.

Zimmerman is free on bond awaiting his second-degree murder trial for shooting Martin. Martin was walking back to a townhome he was staying at when he got into a fight with Zimmerman, who shot him in the chest at close range.

“I would just like to state that the law is written in black and white,” Zimmerman said during a 90-second statement to Sanford city commissioners at a community forum on Jan. 8, 2011.

The forum took place days after a video of the beating went viral on the Internet and then-Sanford Police Chief Brian Tooley was forced to retire. Tooley’s department faced criticism for dragging its feet in arresting Justin Collison, the son of a police lieutenant.

“I’d like to know what action the commission is taking in order to repeal Mr. Tooley’s pension,” Zimmerman said to the commission. “I’m not asking you to repeal his pension; I believe he’s already forfeited his pension by his illegal cover-up in corruption in what happened in his department.”

Trayvon Martin was talking on his cell phone when he was shot and killed in February.

The Miami Herald first reported details from the January 2011 community forum Wednesday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the tape from the meeting.

In the speech, Zimmerman said he witnessed “disgusting” behavior by officers when he was part of a ride-along program, though the agency said it did not know when, if ever, Zimmerman was in that program.

“The officer showed me his favorite hiding spots for taking naps. He explained to me he doesn’t carry a long gun in his vehicle because in his words, ‘Anything that requires a long gun requires a lot of paperwork and you’re gonna find me as far away from it.'”

Zimmerman also said the officer in question “took two lunch breaks and attended a going away party for one of his fellow officers.”

Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett and interim police chief Richard Myers were both unavailable for comment.

Tooley’s successor, Bill Lee, temporarily resigned his post following a no-confidence vote by city commissioners.

Lee offered to resign permanently, but his commissioners turned down his request. He is on paid leave.

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Three NBC Employees Get The Boot After Editing Audio Of Zimmerman Phone To Give Listeners The Impression He Was Racially Profiling Druggie He Latter Shot And Killed In Self Defense

May 5, 2012

NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Three employees of NBC or an NBC-owned television station have now lost their jobs because of editing changes to a call made to police by George Zimmerman on the night he shot Trayvon Martin.

Lilia Luciano, an NBC News correspondent based in Miami, is no longer working at the network, spokeswoman Amy Lynn said. Her departure came as a result of an investigation into her March 20 “Today” show report on the Martin case.

Each of the reports on either “Today” or NBC’s Miami station WTVJ involve editing of Zimmerman’s phone call to a dispatcher that emphasizes his identification of Martin as a black male. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Martin, a case that has increased racial tensions.

In the report involving Luciano, audio of the police phone call was edited to insert a reference to Martin’s race that had been made later in the conversation.

Last month, an NBC News producer was fired in connection with a March 27 “Today” show report where a tape of the call was edited to suggest that Zimmerman volunteered to police that “this guy looks like he’s up to no good. He’s black.”

The broadcast portion of the audio had deleted a part of the conversation where the police dispatcher asked Zimmerman about whether a suspicious male he was reporting was “black, white or Hispanic.” Zimmerman answered, “he looks black.”

Lynn said today that NBC News’ investigation into the reports has ended.

In an investigation about a separate incident, reporter Jeff Burnside of WTVJ lost his job because of a March 19 report on the dispatcher’s call that similarly edited out the dispatcher’s question that prompted Zimmerman’s characterization of Martin as black, said Matt Glassman, spokesman for the NBC-owned station.

The WTVJ report did not air on any other NBC stations, he said.

Last week, WTVJ aired an apology to its viewers for the report on some of its newscasts, and posted it on the station’s website. The statement said that “an error in editorial judgment was made in which a question from the operator was deleted which could have created the impression that Mr. Zimmerman’s statement may have been singling out Trayvon Martin because of his race.

“We take this incident very seriously and apologize to our viewers,” WTVJ said. “After conducting an extensive investigation, we are putting a more stringent editorial process in place to ensure this does not happen again.”

NBC News did not immediately respond to questions about whether the “Today” show has addressed the misleading reports on the air, or whether there are any plans to do so.

Brent Bozell, founder of the conservative media watchdog the Media Research Center, said NBC still has not come clean.

“The truth has been withheld from NBC’s own viewers now for more than one month,” he said. “Do the network executives at NBC think that this is acceptable?”

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Special Prosecutor Says Zimmerman Won’t Yet Face Grand Jury After Killing Druggie In Sanford Florida

April 9, 2012

SANFORD, FLORIDA – Special prosecutor Angela Corey has decided against using a grand jury in the case involving the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, her office said Monday.

The grand jury, set to convene Tuesday, was “previously scheduled by the former prosecutor,” said the statement from Corey.

“The decision should not be considered a factor in the final determination of the case,” her office said.

Corey said the investigation into the case continues. The state attorney has maintained that a grand jury is not needed to file possible criminal charges against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who killed the teen February 26.

The case has triggered a nationwide debate about Florida’s “stand your ground” law — which allows people to use deadly force anywhere they feel a reasonable threat of death or serious injury — and race in America.

Prosecutors are trying to unravel what happened the night Martin was killed. Witnesses and attorneys for both sides have offered conflicting accounts. Two prosecutors are working to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against Zimmerman, 28.

“We had hoped she had enough evidence without the need to convene a grand jury,” said Benjamin Crump, attorney for Martin’s family. “The family is trying to have patience and faith through all of this.”

Crump said the family is hoping for charges against Zimmerman and an arrest as soon as possible.

“We want a very public trial so the evidence can come out and show people that the justice system works for everybody,” he said.

Zimmerman’s attorney, Hal Uhrig, texted his reaction to CNN’s Martin Savidge: “Not surprised. Don’t know what her decision will be. Courageous move on her part.”

Thousands have converged on Sanford to join in protests calling for Zimmerman’s arrest and criticize the police department’s handling of the case.

On Monday, a group of students calling themselves the Dream Defenders marched to the Sanford police station, singing and carrying a banner saying, “We are Trayvon Martin.” The march began Friday in Daytona Beach, about 40 miles away, and continued through the weekend.

The marchers linked arms, sang and chanted as they faced the building’s entrance Monday. Six of the demonstrators, wearing hoodies, were blocking the department’s main entrance. Martin was wearing a hoodie when he was killed.

The Sanford Police Department said in a statement its office was “temporarily closed to the public … due to the actions of student protestors. The students are currently occupying the space in front of the police department blocking the main entrance.” The protest will not affect police and fire response to emergency calls, the department said.

“The city of Sanford hopes the actions of the students will be as peaceful and orderly as the previous rallies and marches have been,” City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. said.
Enhanced audio refutes Zimmerman slur
Crump: Trayvon had right to defend self
Swain: ‘Hoodies feed into stereotype’
Nugent: Trayvon case a tragedy

Corey said previously she has never used a grand jury to decide on charges in a justifiable homicide case.

“We do a thorough investigation. We make that decision ourselves,” she said.

Sunny Hostin, legal analyst for CNN sister network HLN, said she was not surprised by Corey’s decision.

“As a former prosecutor, I typically made my own charging decisions,” she said. “… Many, many seasoned prosecutors use their judgment and make charging decisions, don’t necessarily punt the ball to lay people, to a grand jury.”

Corey’s decision was “the smart thing to do,” she said. “… Now Angela Corey is letting everyone know that this is her case. This is her decision.”

Although details of the incident remain murky, what is known is that Martin ventured out from his father’s fiancee’s home in Sanford to get a snack at a nearby convenience store. As he walked home with a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea, he was shot and killed by Zimmerman.

Sanford police questioned Zimmerman and released him without charges.

From there, the case has evolved into opposing allegations from Zimmerman’s supporters, Martin’s family and authorities.

Zimmerman says he killed Martin in self-defense after the teen punched him and slammed his head on the sidewalk, according to an Orlando Sentinel report that was later confirmed by Sanford police.

One of the responding officers saw a wound on the back of Zimmerman’s head and a bloody nose, and noted that his back was wet — indicating he had been lying in the grass, according to the police report.

An enhanced copy of a surveillance video showing him in police custody after the shooting appears to show a bump, mark or injury on his head.

Martin’s family and supporters have dismissed the video.

They say Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, racially profiled the teen, who was black, and ignored a police dispatcher’s directive not to follow him.

Zimmerman’s attorneys interpret the call differently, and say the operator did not order Zimmerman not to follow Martin.

A recording of a 911 call made the night of the shooting captured someone pleading for help. Zimmerman has said he was yelling for help, according to his family members and his account to authorities.

Martin’s relatives have said they are certain the voice calling for help on the 911 call is Martin’s.

Audio experts Tom Owen and Ed Primeau, who analyzed the recordings for the Orlando Sentinel using different techniques, said they don’t believe the voice is Zimmerman’s.

They compared the screams with Zimmerman’s voice, as recorded in a 911 call he made minutes earlier describing a “suspicious” black male.

The debate was further muddied when a witness, who declined to be identified by CNN, said she saw and heard the incident through her window.

When pressed on whether she could determine who was yelling, the witness said, “It was the younger, youthful voice (rather) than it was the deep voice I heard when they were arguing.”

Zimmerman’s attorneys have questioned the account, saying it was dark at the time of the shooting.

Until now, only friends and relatives of Zimmerman’s have come forward to speak on his behalf. Zimmerman’s attorneys have said he wants to share his story but can’t because of threats to his safety and the possibility of charges.

Martin’s family has said a Sanford police detective filed an affidavit saying he did not find Zimmerman’s statements after the shooting credible — but that Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee and State Attorney Norm Wolfinger met the night of the shooting and disregarded the detective’s advice.

Neither police nor prosecutors have confirmed the existence of such an affidavit. And Wolfinger has vehemently denied that such a meeting occurred.

The two sides have also debated what Zimmerman whispered under his breath during his 911 call.

Martin’s supporters said he uttered a racial slur; Zimmerman’s lawyer said he told them he whispered “punks.”

“We don’t know” whether a grand jury will choose to indict, said Zimmerman’s attorney, Craig Sonner.

Gov. Rick Scott appointed Corey as a special prosecutor as calls for “Justice for Trayvon” grew in the days following the shooting.

Authorities have said Zimmerman was not immediately charged because there were no grounds, at the outset, to disprove his account that he’d acted to protect himself.

The governor has formed a task force to review the “stand your ground” law.

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Much Ado About Nothing: Negros Rally In Support Of Dead Druggie Who Died Attacking Florida Man – Man’s Injuries Consistant With Attack, Witness Accounts, And Defending Himself

March 27, 2012

FLORIDA – The attorney counseling George Zimmerman, who shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin as he was walking home from the store with a bag of Skittles, says if charges are filed, Zimmerman will argue that he acted in self-defense and that Florida’s stand-your-ground law applies.

Attorney Craig Sonner said the public is only hearing part of the story, and when all the facts come out, it will be clear that Zimmerman acted in self defense. A grand jury is scheduled to begin hearing the case April 10.

“George Zimmerman suffered a broken nose, and had an injury to the back of his head, he was attacked by Trayvon Martin on that evening,” Sonner said. “This was a case of self defense.”

When asked why Zimmerman went after Martin, even though a 911 dispatcher told him not to, Sonner said: “Those are questions that will be answered.”

Sonner said the so-called stand-your-ground law, under which a person who feels threatened is not required to retreat and can “meet force with force” if attacked, will be applicable in the case.

Sonner insisted that Zimmerman is not a racist, pointing out that he and his wife mentored for two black children for free.

“When I asked this mother [of the mentees], who trusted [Zimmerman and his wife], and she’s an African-American, if she trusted George Zimmerman, she said she did, and I asked her if there was anything that caused her to believe that she was a racist, and she said, ‘Absolutely not.’ And I said, went further, ‘Did you ever hear him use racial slurs in any time that you’d been around him?’ And she said, ‘no’ as well,” Sonner said.

Joe Oliver, a family friend of Zimmerman’s who spoke with him this weekend, told ABC News that as a volunteer community watch commander, Zimmerman had to look out for suspicious-looking people.

“There are people who have accused George of profiling, well, I would think as a watch commander you are keeping an eye out for people you don’t recognize in your neighborhood,” Oliver said.

“The reason why he was following this suspicious person that he saw was because the neighborhood had a rash of break-ins,” he said. “George had no intention of taking anyone’s life. He cried for days after.”

Oliver said the headlines have taken a toll on Zimmerman, his wife, and his family.

“He’s moved, they’ve disconnected their phone numbers, they’re in hiding, they’re fearful,” Oliver said.

The Zimmerman family friend also denied that a word the watchman is heard blurting out on one of the 911 tapes is the racial slur, “coon.” Oliver said the word he hears Zimmerman saying is “goon.”

“As far as, I mean as far as George being racist, I didn’t take it as a racist term. I heard ‘goon’ and talking to my teenage daughter, apparently goon is a term of endearment in high school these days,” he said.

“He wasn’t talking to Trayvon when that comment was made. He was speaking a generality in that this suspicious person was someone who he – lumped in — as always getting away — goon, coon. I mean, the bottom line, he thought he needed to keep an eye on this individual for whatever reason,” Oliver said.

Oliver said he believes the voice screaming for help on the 911 tape is Zimmerman’s.

After talking with Zimmerman, Oliver says he’s convinced that it came down to a final life-or-death moment: “At that point, either George or Trayvon was going to die.”

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