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George Zimmerman's bond set at $1 million

July 05, 2012|By Laura J. Nelson

The Florida neighborhood watch volunteer who killed Trayvon Martin can leave jail on $1-million bond while awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge, a Florida judge ruled Thursday.

Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester granted bond to George Zimmerman for a second time Thursday. Lester had revoked Zimmerman's $150,000 bond last month after the court discovered that Zimmerman and his wife had not disclosed all their assets.  

“The state would more accurately describe it as -- lied to,” Assistant State Atty. Bernie de la Rionda wrote in a motion filed in court last week.

A website Zimmerman launched to raise money for his legal defense had garnered $135,000 before his first bond hearing, but he did not mention that money, prosecutors said. Shellie Zimmerman said the couple was broke because she was a full-time nursing student and her husband was unemployed.

Jailhouse phone calls between the couple showed George Zimmerman had instructed his wife to transfer $74,000 from his bank account before the April bond hearing, prosecutors said in an affidavit. She transferred the money to her account, then transferred it back after bond was set at $150,000.

The couple also discussed Zimmerman’s second passport, stashed in his safe deposit box, which -- coupled with the cash -- would let the couple flee the country if necessary, prosecutors said.

“The defendant is manipulating the system to his own benefit,” Lester wrote in Thursday's decision. “Notably, together with the passport, the money only had to be hidden for a short time for him to leave the country.”

Shellie Zimmerman was arrested on suspicion of perjury last month.

The defense argued that Zimmerman was confused, scared -- and not likely to be convicted. If his client was going to be exonerated, Mark O’Mara said, he shouldn’t spend a year in jail waiting for a trial. O’Mara had pushed for a second bond hearing and for Zimmerman's bond to be set again at $150,000, arguing in a motion that his client was not a flight risk and was not dangerous.

O’Mara did not call Zimmerman to the witness stand. During the first bond hearing in April, Zimmerman had apologized to the Martin family for killing their son.

Bond set by a Florida court must be an amount that a defendant can pay, because excessive bond is considered the same as denying bond. Given the amount of money the defense website has raised, Zimmerman can afford the $1 million, Lester wrote.  

While free on bail, Zimmerman cannot go to the airport, own a passport, drink alcohol or maintain a bank account.

Zimmerman shot Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, in a gated community in Sanford, Fla.

Zimmerman confessed to the shooting and pleaded not guilty. As his defense, he cites Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which can excuse the use of force in cases of self defense.

After the shooting, Zimmerman was not arrested for 44 days. That sparked protests across the nation, the firing of the Sanford police chief and a U.S. Justice Department investigation.

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Follow Laura on Twitter. Email: laura.nelson@latimes.com.

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