Judge Delays Decision In George Zimmerman Bond Status
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SANFORD (CBS4/AP) – The judge presiding over the bond hearing for George Zimmerman has delayed his ruling on the matter, citing the need for time to weigh all the evidence.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester made the decision to recess shortly after noon Friday after hours of testimony from a forensic accountant, Zimmerman’s father Robert, and an EMT on the scene the night of the shooting.
The finances of George and Shellie Zimmerman were the primary focus of the hearing as the attorney for the former neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Miami teen Trayvon Martin tries to have his client released on bond for a second time.
The first person brought to the stand was Adam Magill, a forensic account hired by Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara.
Magill said from April 9th through 25th a website set up to collect funds for Zimmerman’s defense collected approximately $200,000. Of that amount, Zimmerman withdrew $124,000 which he transferred to his wife’s account, according to Magill. After several transfers back and forth, Magill said the money was then transferred to a trust account set up by O’Mara and then to his defense fund. Magill said he does not know if Zimmerman himself made the transfers, only that someone with access to his account did.
Magill said $24,000 was transferred directly from Paypal to the defense fund. After April 25th the website was taken down and was replaced by another one set up by O’Mara.
Currently, Magill said the Zimmermans have approximately $13,000. Of that $10,000 is being held by Zimmerman’s sister, the other $3,000 is in Shellie Zimmerman’s account which she is using to pay bills.
Under questioning by the prosecutor, Magill said their were numerous transfers because Paypal has a $10,000 limit on home much can be transferred per transaction. Magill said he was unaware that some some of the money transferred ended up in a safety deposit box. Magill said the Zimmermans also used approximately $11,000 from their accounts to pay off credit cards.
The prosecutor said on the website, donors were told that the money they gave would go toward Zimmerman’s defense. They were never told the money would be used for personal expenses and to pay off a $4,000 loan Zimmerman had received from his mother.
Magill testified the Zimmermans used a little more than $24,000 for living expenses and to pay off debt.
Judge Lester originally granted Zimmerman a $150,000 bond in April but it was revoked earlier this month after prosecutors accused Zimmerman and his wife of misleading the court about how much money they had raised from donations to a website. Prosecutors maintain the Zimmermans transferred money out of their accounts to Zimmerman’s sister before the bond hearing and then transferred it back after he was released on bond.
During the hearing, Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, testified that the couple had limited funds to use for bail since she was a fulltime nursing student and he wasn’t working. Zimmerman did nothing to correct her as she testified by telephone due to safety concerns. Prosecutors say jailhouse calls between Zimmerman and his wife a few days before the hearing show the neighborhood watch volunteer instructing his wife on how to transfer funds raised by the website to her account.
Shellie Zimmerman was later charged with making a false statement.
O’Mara says Zimmerman was never a flight risk and stayed in touch with law enforcement during his initial release on bail.
The second person to take the stand was Sanford paramedic Kevin O’Rourke who treated Zimmerman the night of the shooting. O’Rourke said when he first saw Zimmerman blood covered about 50 percent of his head. He said Zimmerman had cuts on his face and a laceration on his head which would require stitches. O’Rourke said he didn’t notice if Zimmerman’s nose was broken.
O’Rourke testified that Zimmerman was not taken to the hospital but was told he should see a doctor the next day.
O’Mara then tried to submit transcripts of witness statements which prosecutors objected to because they were not able to authenticate it. O’Mara then said he would submit the actual audio, and not the transcript, in his evidence package.
Adam Vincent, a Seminole County probation officer who oversaw Zimmerman when he was released the first time on bond, testified that he was a model client.
Robert Zimmerman said he has listened to a 9-1-1 call made the night of the shooting twice. Zimmerman testified that it was his son’s voice screaming for help.
Zimmerman said that he’s heard his son scream before and recognized the sound of his voice on the tape.
Robert Zimmerman said he’s listened to some of the interviews his son gave to police that were released to the media. During those interviews, Zimmerman said Martin had covered his mouth with his hands. When the prosecutor asked Robert Zimmerman why the screams for help weren’t muffled, as they should have been given his son’s testimony, Zimmerman replied that given the extent of his son’s injuries, Martin’s hands were just on his son’s mouth.
George Zimmerman did not take the stand to avoid cross examination by the state.
In his summary, O’Mara said the big issue was a perceived violation of trust. O’Mara said the Zimmermans moved the money around because they didn’t know who to trust. It was never their intent to hide it from the court, but to hide it from those who weren’t entitled to it and may go after it. He pointed out that in the 30 hours of audio tapes released which included conversations between Zimmerman and his wife, there was no evidence that they attempted to intentionally deceive the court. O’Mara said there was no grand conspiracy. He said when he asked the Zimmerman’s for the money, they transferred it to him the following day. O’Mara said Zimmerman should have stepped forward and told the truth when his wife lied. He pointed out that he has been truthful and cooperative throughout the investigation except for that one mis-step.
O’Mara asked the judge to release Zimmerman again on the original $150,000 bond.
Zimmerman, who has pleaded not guilty, has maintained since the Feb. 26 killing that he shot Martin in self-defense because the unarmed 17-year-old was beating him up after confronting Zimmerman about following him in the gated community outside Orlando.