Defense: Zimmerman made a “mistake” in not disclosing money at bond hearing

The lawyers for George Zimmerman say his failure to tell the court about money raised before he was released on bond should not keep him from getting bail again.

06/04/2012 5:00 AM

06/04/2012 5:48 PM

Defense lawyers for George Zimmerman admitted Monday that their client made a “mistake” when he failed to mention some $135,000 he raised through a website before his April bond hearing, but the lawyers say this should not prevent Zimmerman from being released again on bail.

Zimmerman, charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin of Miami Gardens, returned to jail in Seminole County on Sunday after a judge revoked his $150,000 bond. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said Zimmerman sat silently “like a potted plant” while his attorney argued in April that he didn’t have the money to pay a higher bail.

In fact, Zimmerman and his wife controlled at the time at least $135,000 in donations Zimmerman solicited over a website in the days before his arrest in the high-profile case, prosecutors said. Zimmerman first mentioned the account to his attorney five days after the bail hearing.

Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood watch volunteer, encountered Trayvon on a rainy February evening behind rows of townhouses in a Sanford community and shot him after a scuffle. Prosecutors say Zimmerman tracked down Trayvon — whose father was staying in the neighborhood — because he suspected the teen was a burglar; Zimmerman, however, told police that Trayvon attacked him first and he shot the teen in self-defense.

In a statement on their blog Monday, defense attorneys Mark O’Mara and Donald West said Zimmerman’s failure to disclose the money to the judge was a mistake “caused by fear, mistrust and confusion.” At the time of the bail hearing, the lawyers said, Zimmerman “had been driven from his home” by threats and an oppressive climate, as had his parents.

“He had been thrust into the national spotlight as a racist murderer by factions acting with their own agendas,” the lawyers wrote on their website.

“Mr. Zimmerman understands that this mistake has undermined his credibility, which he will have to work to repair,” the lawyers added.

But O’Mara and West maintained that Zimmerman should still be allowed to be released on bail, because he is not a danger to the community nor a flight risk. The lawyers planned to file a renewed bail request on Monday.

The lawyers noted that Zimmerman has frequently cooperated with authorities investigating the shooting. Zimmerman gave voluntary statements to police, re-enacted the shooting for investigators, and gave voice exemplars so police could compare his voice to the screams for help heard on 911 calls at the time of the shooting.

Zimmerman raised a total of $204,000 through his website PayPal account before most of the money was transferred to a legal defense fund out of his control, the lawyers said. About $30,000 of that was spent on expenses to move Zimmerman from Sanford to an undisclosed location outside Florida for his safety, the attorneys said.

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