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Trayvon Martin case: Federal charges are still a possibility

April 11, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. tells a gathering of the National Action Network: "If we find evidence of a potential federal criminal civil rights crime, we will take appropriate action."
Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. tells a gathering of the National Action Network:… (Cliff Owen / Associated…)

The nation's top prosecutor on Wednesday said he is poised to file charges in the Trayvon Martin case -- if the U.S. Justice Department finds evidence of federal civil rights crimes.

U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. made the promise Wednesday while appearing before the 14th annual gathering of the National Action Network, a civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton. Holder praised Sharpton at the start of a speech recalling the progress made by the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and how the fight for equality and justice continues to this day.

"I know that many of you are greatly -- and rightly -- concerned about the recent shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a young man whose future has been lost to the ages," Holder told the audience. "If we find evidence of a potential federal criminal civil rights crime, we will take appropriate action."

"I can also make you another promise: that at every level of today's Justice Department, preventing and combating youth violence and victimization is, and will continue to be, a top priority," he said.

He also added: "As our nation's attorney general -- and as the father of three teenagers -- I am determined to make the progress our young people need and deserve."

The speech went on to outline the uncertain future faced by many of the nation's young people. Among those are the so-called schools-to-prison pipeline -- referring to the fact that so many promising young people nonetheless end up behind bars -- and the unacceptable level of violence to which many of the nation's youths are exposed.

The possibility of federal charges against shooter George Zimmerman stands apart from a rapidly developing state probe into the killing.

Florida state prosecutor Angela Corey is holding a news conference in Jacksonville, Fla., at 6 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday to discuss new developments in the case. Law enforcement sources have told several media outlets, including the Associated Press, that Corey will announce the filing of state charges against Zimmerman.

Meanwhile, Martin's parents -- Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton -- and their attorney pleaded for a peaceful reaction to the announcement.

Also developing is the controversy over Zimmerman's apparent fallout with two attorneys who said they were representing him. Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig held a news conference late Tuesday to announce that  they were severing ties with Zimmerman because he was no longer returning their text messages, phone calls and emails. Such avoidance raises the possibility that Zimmerman might be trying to avoid authorities; the attorneys insisted he is not a flight risk.

They also predicted that, when all the evidence was presented, Zimmerman would be vindicated.

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