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Florida staffer fired over evidence in Zimmerman case

July 13, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Ben Kruidbos, an information technology worker from the state attorney's office, testifies during a hearing for George Zimmerman, who is on trial in the shooting death Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.
Ben Kruidbos, an information technology worker from the state attorney's… (Pool photo )

SANFORD, Fla. -- An employee of the Florida state attorney's office who testified that prosecutors withheld evidence from George Zimmerman's defense team has been fired, a spokeswoman told The Times.

Zimmerman, 29, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in this central Florida town last year. A jury of six women began deliberating Friday and was still at work Saturday.

Ben Kruidbos testified before Zimmerman's trial began five weeks ago that Martin's cellphone contained images of the teen blowing smoke of marijuana and deleted text messages concerning a firearm and that those images had not been given to the defense. 

In a six-page dismissal letter dated July 11, the state attorney's office, 4th Judicial Circuit, blasted Kruidbos' assertions and motivations. He was the office's information technology director.

Managing Director Cheryl R. Peek accused Kruidbos of having erased data from a laptop in violation of  public records law and dismissed his concern that if he didn't turn over the information he would be held liable. She called such concern "feigned and spurious" and "nothing more than shameful manipulation in a shallow, but obvious, attempt to cloak yourself in the protection of the whistle-blower law."

"Because of your deliberate, willful and unscrupulous actions, you can never again be trusted to step foot in this office. Your have left us with no choice but to terminate your employment," she wrote.

One of Zimmerman’s defense attorneys disagreed, saying Kruidbos' testimony supports the defense's claim that the state officials violated rules that require them to turn over evidence.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara told CNN: "When it takes me six months to get a color picture of my client, when the first one I get is a black and white, when I look at it and go, 'This is off a cellphone; cellphones don't take black-and-white pictures,' and I ask for a color copy, that takes two months, that should not happen. I've done this too long to make believe in my own mind that that's happenstance."

O'Mara told CNN that he learned about the missing information months after he was to have received it, adding that he was "beyond" shocked.

"It could have derailed the trial," he said.

Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson has said that she would address the possibility of sanctions against anyone who might have attempted to withhold the evidence — sanctions requested by the defense — after the verdict.

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