This is how Miami publicist/branding specialist Thom Mozloom would advise George Zimmerman on his future: Return to the obscurity you enjoyed before the night of Feb. 26, 2012.
Get out of Florida. And maybe change your name.
“Couldn’t hurt,’’ said Mozloom. Clients of his firm, The M Network, include Joe’s Stone Crab, the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, Toyota, and the University of Miami.
“When we get into these situations with clients, we want to know what their goals are,’’ Mozloom said. “If [Zimmerman] wants to repair his reputation, he’d want to go back to when he didn’t have one.... He could find a deep ‘Red’ state in the Midwest and disappear, and fight the urge to defend himself.’’
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One more thing, said Mozloom: “When the movie comes out that paints you as the gun-toting racist, don’t be available for comment.’’
Zimmerman, acquitted Saturday in the shooting of Miami Gardens teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford 17 months ago, is an avenging angel to those who believe he properly defended himself as the two scuffled, even though Trayvon was unarmed. But to others he got away with murder.So although he’s free, Zimmerman will likely become another in a long line of vindicated defendants destined for everlasting notoriety, such as O.J. Simpson, Claus von Bulow, and most recently in Florida, Casey Anthony, the Orlando mom widely believed to have killed her 3-year-old daughter, Caylee, though a jury didn’t agree.
Suggestions, both serious and snarky, abound as to what Zimmerman can, should, or probably will do next.
It’s possible he could find himself back in civil court defending a wrongful-death suit by Trayvon’s parents, or in federal court on civil-rights violation charges.
And security experts warn that he’ll need 24/7 protection for a long time.
California defense lawyer Thomas A. Mesereau, Jr., who helped Michael Jackson beat child-molestation charges, also advises Zimmerman to “live a low-key existence’’ and get out of Florida, where prosecutors “humiliated’’ by their loss might have a vendetta.
“He’d be wise to move a good distance away,’’ Mesereau said. “He may even want to change his name. He has to start his whole life over.’’
But American society “does move on,’’ he said, noting that Mark Fuhrman, the white Los Angeles police detective reviled in the O.J. Simpson trial for racist remarks, quietly reinvented himself as an author and Fox News forensics expert.
After Saturday’s verdict, a close friend of Zimmerman told Reuters that he could be headed for law school.
Leanne Benjamin told the news agency that Zimmerman told her: “I’d like to help other people like me,” by becoming a lawyer.
Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, told Reuters: "He wanted to be a cop for awhile, but he’s talked [more recently] about going to law school. He has a real interest in the law and ... prosecuting appropriately — not like what he got — is something he’s very interested in. I will not be surprised if he ends up in criminal law. His dad was a judge, and he wants to be a prosecutor or a lawyer.”
A good model, said Mozloom, might be Monica Lewinsky, who didn’t commit a crime or go to trial, but gained unsought infamy through her affair with President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
She moved to London and rarely surfaces in the media.
Same for von Bulow, found not guilty of trying to kill his socialite wife, Sunny, with an insulin overdose in the 1980s.
Casey Anthony, however, figured she’d cash in after she walked away from homicide charges in the 2011 death of her daughter.
She’s out of sight, unemployed and bankrupt, and recently told the judge in a civil lawsuit against her that she survived on the charity of friends.
Lorena Bobbitt, the Virginia woman who cut off her husband, John’s, penis in 1993, was found not guilty by reason of insanity. She remarried, had a daughter, and heads Lorena’s Red Wagon, a nonprofit that fights domestic violence.
Then, of course, there’s O.J., the former NFL star, actor and Florida resident acquitted in 1995 of stabbing to death his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
He subsequently lost a $33 million wrongful-death suit and is now serving 33 years in a Nevada lockup for robbery and kidnapping.
Zimmerman might also find himself fielding lucrative book deals, said Mozloom, “which would be very tempting for him. Then you run into the problem of profiting off tragedy, which is a very difficult balancing act.’’
However, said Mozloom, if Zimmerman wanted to “own’’ his mistakes in the case, “he could be the spokesperson for responsible gun ownership.’’