SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — The neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin to death has been out of state, out of touch and, his ex-lawyer says, “a little bit over the edge.”
As charges were expected to be announced late Wednesday against George Zimmerman in the shooting of the unarmed black teen, experts offered this advice: Shut up.
“My advice to the client would be, ‘Save it for the trial. It can’t help you.’” said Roy Kahn, a Miami defense attorney, as law enforcement officials said Zimmerman’s arrest was imminent in the Feb. 26 shooting.
The 28-year-old Sanford man’s recent behavior has alarmed those close to him, especially his ex-lawyers who held a raucous news conference Tuesday and said they weren’t representing him. He has called special prosecutor Angela Corey on his own, had an off-the-record chat with a Fox News Channel host and put up a website asking supporters for money.
WATCH NBC NEWS COVERAGE OF THE PROSECUTOR’S EXPECTED ANNOUNCEMENT ON ZIMMERMAN:
“It would not be in a client’s best interest to give any statement before it’s his time to testify at trial,” said Kahn. “For him to give a statement, since he already has given an interview to the police, any additional statement at the State Attorney’s Office would just create the possibility of him creating conflict with his previous statements.”
Law enforcement officials said Zimmerman would soon be arrested, but his whereabouts were unknown. His former lawyers, Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig, said he wasn’t in Florida, but wouldn’t say where he was. The lawyers on Tuesday portrayed Zimmerman as erratic, said he hadn’t returned their calls and texts and expressed fear for his health under the pressure that has built in the month since the shooting.
“He’s gone on his own,” Sonner said Tuesday. “I’m not sure what he’s doing or who he’s talking to. I cannot go forward speaking to the public about George Zimmerman and this case as representing him because I’ve lost contact with him.”
But on Wednesday, the attorney said there was no reason to send officers to arrest Zimmerman since he had planned to turn himself in if charges were filed.
“He is not going to run and hide,” Sonner said in a statement. “They don’t have to get him. They can just call him and make arrangements for him to come in.”
Sonner and Uhrig said they still believe in Zimmerman’s innocence and would represent him again if he requested.
Jack Schafer, a professor at Western Illinois University and a former FBI behavioral analyst, said Zimmerman’s behavior hasn’t been erratic. After all, Schafer said, he wasn’t charged with any crime and was free to go wherever he wanted after he cooperated with authorities the night of the shooting.
“If I were him, I’d go somewhere in hiding,” said Schafer. “His life is at risk, not by jurisprudence, but by angry people who are rushing to judgment.”
Schafer said he thinks Zimmerman will cooperate with law enforcement once the charges are announced.
“If he was going to flee, he would have flown by now,” said Schafer. “He adamantly maintains he did nothing wrong. If he believes he did nothing wrong, why would he need to flee, except from the press and the vigilantes.”
Zimmerman showed the strain on the website he set up for himself, adorned with the American flag.
“As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life,” he wrote. “This website’s sole purpose is to ensure my supporters they are receiving my full attention without any intermediaries.”
Kahn said anything Zimmerman says, to Corey or the public, could be taken the wrong way.
“The only thing he can do is make the case worse for himself if he says something stupid,” he said. “It may not be incriminating, but if it’s stupid, even if it’s an insignificant fact that shows it’s something he lied about, that’s enough for them to say, ‘Well, he’s lying.’”
“You’re better off not saying anything at this point in the game.”
Associated Press writer Mike Schneider contributed to this report from Orlando, Fla.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.