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Zimmerman's lawyer: Hidden money 'has undermined his credibility'

June 04, 2012|By Matt Pearce
  • Mark O'Mara, attorney for George Zimmerman, speaks to the media after his client returned to the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
Mark O'Mara, attorney for George Zimmerman, speaks to the media after… (John Raoux / Associated…)

George Zimmerman's latest entanglement with law enforcement was a "mistake" and "has undermined his credibility, which he will have to work to repair," his attorney said in a statement Monday.

Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American who was unarmed. Zimmerman, who is white and Latino, has admitted shooting the youth during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford, but he insists it was self-defense.

The latest comments from his attorney, Mark O'Mara, come on the heels of Zimmerman's return to jail after a judge revoked his bond. Zimmerman had been free and in hiding while awaiting trial.

Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said at a hearing Friday that Zimmerman had falsely represented his financial state when the $150,000 bond amount was granted.

Zimmerman's wife had testified in April that the couple had limited funds, but prosecutors came across recorded jailhouse calls between them in which they discussed donations from a website the family had set up to fund Zimmerman's defense. That website had apparently raised more than $200,000.

The defense — in the most passive of passive voices — now says Zimmerman "allowed his financial situation to be misstated in court" and that he knows it was a mistake.

"The audio recordings of Mr. Zimmerman's phone conversations while in jail make it clear that Mr. Zimmerman knew a significant sum had been raised by his original fundraising website," O'Mara's office said in a statement. "We feel the failure to disclose these funds was caused by fear, mistrust and confusion."

It's a painful acknowledgement for the defense that backs up what many legal experts had speculated — that if it appears Zimmerman lied about his money, then his credibility could be at risk in trial.

But the defense tried to excuse the slip by illuminating the pressure on Zimmerman, who has found himself at the center of a national controversy since news of the killing spread.

"At the point of the bond hearing, Mr. Zimmerman had been driven from his home and neighborhood, could not go to work, his wife could not go back to a finish her nursing degree, his mother and father had been driven from their home, and he had been thrust into the national spotlight as a racist murderer by factions acting with their own agendas," O'Mara's office said in the statement. "None of those allegations have been supported by the discovery released to date, yet the hatred continues."

Zimmerman's defense said that he'd raised $204,000 — $150,000 of which has been transferred to an independently managed legal defense fund, plus $30,000 allocated for Zimmerman to go into hiding and $20,000 for a few months of living expenses.

The defense also said the fund has received $37,000 more in contributions since being set up on May 3.

It planned to file a request Monday for a new bond hearing.

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