George Zimmerman walks into court with attorney Mark O'Mara, right,… (George Skene / Orlando Sentinel )
With the season of giving well under way, supporters of George Zimmerman are hoping to entice donations by offering thank-you notes personally signed by the man awaiting trial in Florida on charges he killed an unarmed African American teenager.
The notes will be sent to donors of the New George Zimmerman Defense Fund -- the latest fundraising effort, which was announced this week on Zimmerman’s official website. In the announcement, Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, said the old fund raised just over $140,000 since it was established in May.
"Currently, the balance of the George Zimmerman Defense Fund is at its lowest, and new funds must be raised to support George's living expenses and legal costs," according to the post.
Zimmerman is currently free on a $1-million bond while awaiting trial. He faces a charge of second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, has repeatedly said he acted in self-defense when he shot the teenager. The trial is expected in June and a hearing on the self-defense claim under the state’s “stand your ground” law is tentatively scheduled for April.
He has also had a difficult history with fundraising in a case that has roiled racial tensions around the nation. Shortly after his arrest, Zimmerman began raising funds via the Web. Zimmerman told the court he was poor and unemployed so a lower bail was set by the judge. But when officials learned he was raising money, Zimmerman’s legal team shut down the site, TheRealGeorgeZimmerman.com.
Zimmerman eventually spent 30 days in jail until the current bond was allowed and posted.
O’Mara promised better management of the new fundraising effort.
"These efforts will include an updated GZDefenseFund.com website, a disclosure of how funds have been spent, and regular updates regarding how future funds will be allocated," the post noted. Zimmerman will send a personally signed note to donors and will keep their identity confidential, it said.
None of Zimmerman’s lawyers have been paid, the lawyers said.
"Priority for the funds will be as it has always been, in this order: to pay for George's living expenses, to pay for costs associated with the defense, and then -- only if funds remain -- to pay appropriate legal fees. That has always been the priority plan, and we reassert it now," according to the post.
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