George Zimmerman, known as the unofficial gun-toting neighborhood watch volunteer charged with murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, surrendered to police Sunday and was booked into jail after having his bail revoked two days earlier for lying to a Florida judge. Zimmerman’s legal team said in a tweet that he was in police custody. Zimmerman’s bail was revoked because the judge said he and his wife lied to the court about their finances so he could obtain a lower bond.
On Sunday afternoon, about 40 minutes before the 2:30 p.m. deadline to surrender, Zimmerman was listed as an inmate on the jail website. He was listed as being held without bail and having $500 in his jail account.
Seminole County Sheriff Donald Eslinger said Zimmerman turned himself in to two sheriff’s office employees around 1:25 p.m. near the jail, and was then driven to the jail. Zimmerman arrived in a white minivan and did not respond to questions from reporters as he walked inside, handcuffed and wearing blue jeans, sneakers and a button-down shirt. “He is quiet and cooperative,” Eslinger said at a news conference after Zimmerman’s surrender.
The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said Zimmerman would be in a cell by himself, separated from the general population, because the case is so high-profile. The 67-square-foot cell is equipped with a toilet, two beds, a mattress, pillow, blanket and bed sheets. Zimmerman will not have access to a TV.
Prosecutors had said Zimmerman and his wife told the judge at a bond hearing in April that they had limited money, even though he had raised about $135,000 through a website. Defense attorneys said the matter was a misunderstanding.
Attorney Mark O’Mara announced earlier Sunday on his website that Zimmerman had arrived in Florida late Saturday evening ahead of his surrender. Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of the 17-year-old Martin, was ordered by a judge Friday to return to jail.
During a bond hearing in April, the couple had indicated they had limited funds. But prosecutors say Zimmerman had raised thousands through a website he had set up for his legal defense.
Zimmerman’s legal team said Sunday that they will ask for a new bond hearing to address those concerns, and that they hope Zimmerman’s voluntary surrender will show he is not a flight risk. Furthermore, the money Zimmerman has raised is in an independent trust and cannot be directly accessed by Zimmerman or his attorneys, according to the press release.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charge. He maintains he shot Martin in self-defense under Florida’s so-called “stand your ground” law because the teen, who was unarmed, was beating him up after confronting Zimmerman about following him in a gated community outside Orlando.
Zimmerman’s credibility could become an issue at trial, legal experts said, noting the case hinges on jurors believing Zimmerman’s account of what happened the night in February that Martin was killed.
Zimmerman wasn’t charged in the case until more than a month after the shooting. Protests were held across the nation, and the case spurred debate about whether race was a factor in Zimmerman’s actions and in the initial police handling of the case. Martin was black; Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is from Peru.
Police in Sanford did not immediately arrest Zimmerman, citing the Florida law that gives wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat in a fight if people believe they are in danger of being killed or seriously injured. Zimmerman was arrested 44 days after the killing.
Prosecutors pointed out in their motion that Zimmerman had $135,000 available when the bond hearing was held in April. It had been raised from donations through a website he had set up. They suggested more has been collected since and deposited in a bank account.
Shellie Zimmerman was asked about the website at the hearing, but she said she didn’t know how much money had been raised. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set bail at $150,000. The 28-year-old was freed a few days later after posting $15,000 in cash – which is typical.
Prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda complained Friday, “This court was led to believe they didn’t have a single penny. It was misleading and I don’t know what words to use other than it was a blatant lie.” The judge agreed and ordered Zimmerman returned to jail by Sunday afternoon.
The defense countered that Zimmerman and his wife never used the money for anything, which indicated “there was no deceit.” The judge said he would schedule a hearing after Zimmerman is back in custody so he could explain himself.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, said his clients have always said Zimmerman should remain in jail until trial.
Photographs are Courtesy: AP
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