Judge Delays Decision on Zimmerman Contributions
CNN)– George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer accused of wrongly killing Trayvon Martin, will not immediately have to turn over donations to his website, a Florida judge said Friday.
Zimmerman collected about $204,000 in donations through the website, but did not disclose the contributions during his bond hearing last week, according to Zimmerman’s attorney, .
Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda asked Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. to increase Zimmerman’s $150,000 bond. But the judge said he would delay ruling on the request, in part because he does not know if he has the authority to do so.
Lester said he is also concerned about revealing the names of donors.
“I’m not going to make a snap decision,” Lester said.
Zimmerman’s family testified last week at his bond hearing that they did not have the kind of resources that would have been necessary to meet the prosecution’s suggested $1 million bond.
Zimmerman, 28, was released Monday on $150,000 bail, 10% of which his family put up to secure his release while he awaits trial on a second-degree murder charge in Martin’s February 26 death.
Although Zimmerman spent some of the contributions on living expenses, about $150,000 remains, O’Mara said Friday. O’Mara said he has put the money into a trust he controls until a final decision is made about its use.
O’Mara said he learned about the money on Wednesday and he and Zimmerman were trying to shut down Zimmerman’s website, Facebook page and Twitter account to avoid concerns about possible impersonators and other problems.
“He asked me what to do with his PayPal accounts, and I asked him what he was talking about,” O’Mara told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday. “He said those were the accounts that had the money from the website he had. And there was about … $204,000 that had come in to date.”
O’Mara had said earlier this month that he believed Zimmerman had no money.
Asked whether knowledge of the money might have made a difference to Lester, who presided at Zimmerman’s bond hearing, O’Mara said, “It might have.”
Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said Zimmerman’s failure to reveal that he had the money shows that he is being dishonest.
“If his testimony at the bond hearing is any indication of what is to come, then the lying has already begun,” Crump said.
Zimmerman was arrested April 11 after a lengthy delay punctuated by protests and rallies nationwide calling for charges against him.
Critics accuse Zimmerman of racially profiling and unjustly killing Martin, a 17-year-old African-American. Zimmerman told police he shot Martin in self-defense, according to police reports.
Although details of the shooting remain murky, it is known that Martin ventured out from the Sanford home of his father’s fiancee and went to a nearby convenience store, where he bought a bag of candy and an iced tea. On his way back, he had a confrontation with Zimmerman, who shot him.
Zimmerman had called 911 to complain about a suspicious person in the neighborhood, according to authorities.
In the call, Zimmerman said he was following Martin after the teen started to run, prompting the dispatcher to tell him, “We don’t need you to do that.” Zimmerman pursued Martin anyway but then said he lost sight of him.
According to an Orlando Sentinel story later confirmed by Sanford police, Zimmerman told authorities that after he briefly lost track of Martin, the teen approached him. After the two exchanged words, Zimmerman said, he reached for his cell phone, and then Martin punched him in the nose. Zimmerman said Martin pinned him to the ground and began slamming his head onto the sidewalk, leading to the shooting.
Police have said Zimmerman was not immediately charged because there was no evidence to disprove his account that he’d acted in self-defense. A police report indicated he was bleeding from the nose and the back of his head.
Regardless of what happens to the contributions generated by ZImmerman’s website, O’Mara said he intends to open a legal defense fund for his client.
“I’ve had dozens, hundreds actually, of people wanting to donate,” he said.
O’Mara, who said he charges $400 per hour for family law cases, estimated Zimmerman’s defense costs could reach $1 million.
“You can really go through a lot of money on a case like this, with the intensity of it,” he said.