George Zimmerman leaves Fla. jail on $1M bond
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman was released from jail Friday for a second time while he awaits his second-degree murder trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman left the Seminole County Jail a day after Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester granted a $1 million bail with strict conditions.
The neighborhood watch leader is required to stay in Seminole County. He was allowed to leave Florida after his first release in April. He must be electronically monitored, can’t open a bank account, obtain a passport or set foot on the grounds of the local airport. He has a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
“He’s very happy to be out,” said Don West, one of Zimmerman’s attorneys. “Certainly it’s been a sobering experience being in that kind of environment.”
Zimmerman had been released on a $150,000 bond in April, but the judge revoked it last month after prosecutors presented evidence that he and his wife misled the court about how much money they had available to pay for the bond. They didn’t tell the judge that donations from a website for Zimmerman’s legal defense had raised around $135,000 at the time of his first bond hearing.
Prosecutors argued Zimmerman and his wife talked in code during recorded jailhouse conversations about how to transfer the donations to different bank accounts. For example, George Zimmerman at one point asked how much money they had. She replied “$155.” Prosecutors allege that was code for $155,000. Their reference to “Peter Pan” was code for the PayPal system through which the donations were made, prosecutors said.
Shellie Zimmerman faces arraignment at the end of the month on a perjury charge; she was freed on bond.
During Zimmerman’s second bond hearing, his attorney, Mark O’Mara, said that his client was confused, fearful and experienced a moment of weakness when he and his wife misled the court.
The judge didn’t buy it and expressed his unhappiness with Zimmerman and his wife in his second bond order. He accused Zimmerman of making plans to flee to avoid prosecution, misleading O’Mara by not disclosing the money from the website and trying to manipulate the judicial system.
“Under any definition, the defendant has flaunted the system,” Lester wrote.
But the judge said current law limited his ability to deny a second application for bond.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and claims the shooting was self-defense under the state’s “stand your ground” law. Zimmerman and Martin got into a fight last February inside a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman was the neighborhood watch leader for the community and Martin was visiting his father’s fiance, who lived there.
The “stand your ground” law allows individuals to use deadly force provided they are doing nothing illegal and relieves them of a duty to retreat if they believe their lives are in jeopardy. The law allows defendants to make their self-defense case at a hearing presided over by a judge and without the use of a jury. If the judge deems self-defense was justified, the case can be dismissed without going to trial.
The 44 days between the shooting and Zimmerman’s arrest inspired nationwide protests, led to the departure of the Sanford, Fla. police chief and prompted a U.S. Justice Department probe.
Martin’s parents and supporters claim that the unarmed teenager was targeted because he was black and that Zimmerman started the confrontation that led to the shooting. Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is Hispanic.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.