Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Public safety

Judge scrutinizes $200,000 defense fund for George Zimmerman

SANFORD — Calling it an "oversight," George Zimmerman's attorney said Friday the neighborhood watch volunteer did not disclose that a website had raised more than $200,000 for his defense, even though his family told the judge they would have trouble coming up with his bond.

"Quite honestly, with everything he is going through over the past few weeks, if that is the only oversight committed, then we'll deal with it," said Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara.

O'Mara contended the family was not trying to be deceptive, but Florida Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said he wanted to know more about the money. O'Mara doesn't think the judge will change Zimmerman's bond in light of the new information.

Zimmerman was released from jail earlier this week, and has gone into hiding over concerns about his safety. He is accused of second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, 28, wasn't charged for more than six weeks, setting off nationwide protests. He claims self-defense. Martin was unarmed.

An attorney for Martin's family said the teenager's parents were "offended" Zimmerman did not tell the judge about the money.

"This is a bombshell that was dropped," Benjamin Crump said.

O'Mara said he learned about the money this week, after Zimmerman's release. The family used $5,000 from the website as well as a second mortgage on their home to bail out Zimmerman, O'Mara said. Zimmerman has also used some of the money for living expenses.

The website has been taken down, but O'Mara said the defense is starting two others.

Also Friday, Lester refused the prosecution's request to issue a gag order on those involved in the murder trial. He said he would not stop Zimmerman's attorneys from talking to the media.

"This case is the most significant media event in the country, maybe in the world. We can't be absolutely mute about these matters," O'Mara said.

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