Robert J. Zimmerman, Trayvon shooter's dad, a magistrate in Virginia court system

George Zimmerman’s father served as a Supreme Court magistrate in the Virginia court system until five years ago, serving as a court officer who dealt with criminal cases.

The Virginia court system is subdivided into supreme and circuit courts, lower courts and magistrates, who perform judicial functions such as conducting “probable cause” hearings on criminal complaints brought by police and determining whether a person who has been arrested is eligible for bail.

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From the Virginia judicial website, it’s clear that Zimmerman’s duties had much to do with dealing with people under arrest:

In many instances, a citizen’s first contact with Virginia’s Judicial System comes through the office of the magistrate. A principal function of the magistrate is to provide an independent, unbiased review of complaints of criminal conduct brought to the office by law enforcement or the general public. Magistrate duties include issuing various types of processes such as arrest warrants, summonses, bonds, search warrants, subpoenas, and certain civil warrants. Magistrates also conduct bail hearings in instances in which an individual is arrested on a warrant charging him or her with a criminal offense. Magistrates provide services on an around-the-clock basis, conducting hearings in person or through the use of videoconferencing systems.

The magistrate system for the Commonwealth (of Virginia) is divided into eight regions, and each magistrate is authorized to exercise his or her powers throughout the magisterial region for which he or she is appointed. Each region is comprised of between three and five judicial districts. There are magistrate offices located throughout Virginia, including at least one in each of Virginia’s 32 judicial districts.

An ABC affiliate in Florida posted a statement from Kristi Wright, with the Department of Legislative and Public Relations in Virginia, which read:

“Robert J. Zimmerman served as a full-time magistrate from 2000-2006. Please be advised that in Virginia magistrates are judicial officers, but they are not considered “judges” and do not possess trial jurisdiction. More detailed information on the role of the magistrate in Virginia is available on Virginia’s Judicial System Website.”

Whether that experience helped the elder Zimmerman assist his son out of the various prior legal scrapes he found himself in, including a charge of resisting arrest with violence in 2005 and a domestic violence charge, is unclear. Florida’s laws and Virginia’s are different.

But it does indicate that Robert Zimmerman was knowledgeable enough about the criminal justice system that he may have been a valuable resource for his son.

Also today, Joe Oliver, who has become a public spokesman for Zimmerman, dismissed the idea that the newly surfaced surveillance video showing George Zimmerman entering the police station undercuts his story of a brutal beating at the hands of Trayvon Martin.

Oliver pointed out that, at one point in the video, an officer checks the back of Zimmerman’s head.

“People who want to see George jailed are jumping to conclusions before we know all the facts,” he said.

Oliver insisted he is not being paid by the family to speak for George, but did say he was told that George Zimmerman’s attorney, Craig Sonner, was hired because “he was the first one to say yes after George’s father made several calls.”

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