Despite a last-minute rush to the courthouse by the defense to keep a witness’ damaging story out of public view, on Monday prosecutors released a recorded statement from George Zimmerman’s cousin, who said he molested her for 10 years when they were both children, beginning when she just 6 years old.
Dubbed “witness 9,” the woman is 26, lives in Central Florida, and — like most other witnesses in the case — her name was not released. She called investigators several days after the shooting of Trayvon Martin to say that Zimmerman and his family were racists who disliked blacks. The evidence released Monday shows she also called the Seminole County state attorney about three weeks later with more-serious allegations.
She told investigators Jim Post and Jim Rick that her family and Zimmerman’s lived in different states, but inappropriate incidents of a sexual nature took place during annual visits until she was 16. Two years younger than Zimmerman, she said she was scared of him because he was bigger, older and stronger.
She described him as a charmer who made everyone laugh and love him. He was different, she said, when he was alone with her behind closed doors.
When she was 6 and her family was in the process of moving from Louisiana to Orlando, she said, she and her sister were sent to stay with the Zimmermans at their home in Virginia. The children would hang out on sofas under blankets watching TV, and Zimmerman, she claims, would take the opportunity to fondle her and penetrate her with his fingers, even though there were other people in the room.
“That’s my earliest memory of him trying to do things. He would reach under the blankets,” she said. “He was bigger, and stronger and older. I was a kid. I didn’t know any better.”
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara called the accusation a “side tornado that comes with a hurricane” -- you have to wait for it to blow over.
“It’s completely irrelevant, and now we will have to waste 50 hours on something that will never make it to a courtroom,” he told The Miami Herald Monday night. “He denies it. He is saying that it never happened.”
O’Mara said he’s now put in the position of having to discredit the woman, by pointing out things like that she tried to sell her story to People magazine. The magazine’s executive editor said Tuesday that no one there ever spoke to her or was approached for such a story.
In her statement, witness 9 said she kept the allegations secret for years because everyone in her family adores Zimmerman.
“He made everyone love him, made everyone laugh and be happy around him,” she said, adding that to her father, Zimmerman was like the son he never had.
But every time the families visited, Zimmerman would grope her behind curtains and touch her inappropriately, she said. Once, when she was about 12, he allegedly made her rub his penis.
She said the last incident took place when she was 16, and the Zimmermans had recently moved to Central Florida, closer to where her family lives. She said he lay down next to her with an erection and began kissing her and rubbing her chest, but she got up and ran out. He chased her as far as the front door but no further, she said.
“I wanted it to just stop,” she said. “I didn’t want to ever have to tell anyone.”