SANFORD -- George Zimmerman was 28, banished from his home by throngs of angry activists and facing life in prison. He was afraid he’d never get to stroll the streets again for fear of getting shot.
That’s why, his defense lawyer said Friday, Zimmerman concealed the small fortune he amassed in the wake of the killing of an unarmed teenager, and why a judge should let him out on bond.
But prosecutors see it like this: George Zimmerman is a murderer with a cop complex who profiled and killed an innocent kid, and then scammed the court in hopes of keeping for himself the $205,000 donated by strangers around the world. For that, Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda said, Zimmerman should cool his heels in jail until he is either exonerated or found guilty of the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin.
The neighborhood watch volunteer shot a boy and then made more money in 11 days, from supporters around the country, than he would have earned in years. Now he’s in jail, hoping Seminole Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester is swayed by the details of his injuries suffered during his struggle with Trayvon and comes back Monday with a decision in his favor.
Lester listened to nearly three hours of arguments and testimony Friday in a bail hearing for Zimmerman, but didn’t issue an immediate ruling. It’s the second time a bond hearing was held in the case: The judge revoked the first $150,000 bond after when he learned that Zimmerman had covered up a large amount of money raised via the online payment site PayPal.
In a sharp contrast to the prior bail hearing, Friday’s court session was conducted like an Arthur hearing, a special bond hearing for serious felonies where both sides present evidence to demonstrate the strength — or weakness — of the case.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara insisted that the seriously wounded Zimmerman wasn’t trying to hoard cash and “skedaddle” when he kept information about the PayPal money from the court. O’Mara asked Lester to set the bond again at $150,000, for the simple reason that Zimmerman may never be found guilty at all.
O’Mara essentially conducted a mini-trial, presenting a paramedic, Zimmerman’s dad, medical records, witness statements and a videotape of his client show that the case boils down to self defense. He asked permission for Zimmerman to speak only to the judge — without being cross examined — but Lester quashed the suggestion.
Zimmerman is charged with the Feb. 26 killing of Trayvon, a 17-year-old who had been suspended from Michael Krop Senior High after getting caught with marijuana residue and a pipe.
The two ran into each other at Zimmerman’s Sanford townhouse complex that night as the teen walked home from the store, and Zimmerman headed to Target in his truck. Zimmerman thought Trayvon looked suspicious and got out of his car as he gave particulars to the police by phone.
Minutes later, Zimmerman has said Trayvon decked him in the face and pummeled him on the ground, forcing him to shoot the teen to protect his life.
“If Mr. Martin was shot, it’s because he had broken someone’s nose and smashed someone’s head on the cement walkway at least two times,” O’Mara said. “The strength of the state’s case for second-degree murder is something you need to take apart.”