Prosecutors Say Zimmerman Hid Second Passport, Lied About Money
In a packed Florida courtroom in April, George Zimmerman’s defense lawyer surrendered his client’s passport—a gesture to show that Zimmerman would not attempt to flee the country if he were released on bond.
It now appears that Zimmerman had another passport he didn’t hand over.
According to startling new disclosures by prosecutors in the case (PDF), the state attorney’s office says Zimmerman failed to give the court another valid American passport he had obtained in 2004.
As a result of this and other new information provided to the court on Friday, Judge Kenneth R. Lester of Seminole County Circuit Court made a dramatic reversal, revoking Zimmerman’s $150,000 bond package and ordering him to turn himself in to authorities within 48 hours.
Zimmerman, at the center of one of the most high-profile criminal cases in years, has been living in hiding since the bond hearing, but that freedom may now be over as he will likely head back to jail to await trial on charges that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old who was walking home through Zimmerman’s housing complex.
The Feb. 26 shooting, in which Zimmerman claimed self-defense and was released without charges, captivated and divided the country. Zimmerman is half-white, half-Hispanic, and Martin was black. A month and half later, after the appointment of a special prosecutor, Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
Prosecutors said Zimmerman got his second passport after claiming he’d lost his original one, which expired at the end of May 2012. It was that original passport which he turned over to the court; the second passport, which is valid until 2014, remained in his possession.
In addition to the passport allegations, prosecutors also disclosed on Friday what the state’s attorney called an elaborate scheme by Zimmerman and his wife, Shelly, to conceal their true financial status from the court.
Zimmerman “intentionally deceived the court with the assistance of his wife,” according to the prosecution’s motion to revoke his bail.
At the April 20 bond hearing, Shelly Zimmerman testified that she knew nothing (PDF) about any funds in a PayPal account George had set up for donations, and said she believed she and her husband had no money to post for bond.
After the bond hearing, Zimmerman was released on $150,000 bond. Bond is typically assured with a payment of ten percent, or $15,000 in this case.
(A week after the bond hearing, Zimmerman’s lawyer revealed that Zimmerman’s now defunct website had raised over $200,000.)
In reality, prosecutors say, the Zimmermans had access to $135,000.
Further, prosecutors claimed, despite being in jail Zimmerman “was intimately einvolved in the deposit and transfer of monies into various accounts.” He “was directing the show” from his prison cell, according to the motion.
Prosecutors referred to recorded phone conversations between Zimmerman and his wife, which they said were conducted “in code” in order to deceive authorities.
In one call, Zimmerman allegedly asked his wife, “In my account do I have at least $100?”
“No,” she responded, explaining later that he was “$8.60” short.
It is unclear whether this is the code to which prosecutors refer in their motion, but in another excerpt they quote, Zimmerman allegedly told his wife, “You are going to take out $10, and keep it with you in cash. Less then 10.”
His wife allegedly responded, “Like $9.”
Friday’s hearing was originally intended to address the question of whether certain evidence in the case should be sealed, but the allegations that Zimmerman deceived the court on the issue of his funds and his passport quickly took center stage.
Benjamin Crump, lawyer for the Martin family, told The Daily Beast, “In our view this is the most important ruling in the case. It makes everyone focus on George Zimmerman’s credibility, and that is the crux of the matter. The reason his credibility is so important is that it is his version that is the only one that says Trayvon Martin attacked him.”
Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara, did not immediately return a call for comment.