Friday July 6, 2012
Florida teen's shooter granted $1 million bail
MIAMI: George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer facing a murder charge over the high-profile shooting of an unarmed Florida black teen, was granted new bail on Thursday set at $1 million.
Zimmerman, accused of second degree murder for shooting dead 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February, must post 10 percent of the bail amount, $100,000, but also show $900,000 in assets as collateral in case he flees.
The defendant and his wife Shellie "have about $211,000 in an account that his legal team is using for defense purposes," his lawyer Mark O'Mara has said, making it unclear if the defendant has the means to post bail.
Zimmerman was freed after posting $150,000 bail in April, but that bond agreement was revoked after he and his wife were found to have lied about funds they had raised through a website.
In issuing his ruling, Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester largely sided with prosecutors and said Zimmerman may have been intending to flee with more than $130,000 collected through the donations.
"The defendant tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so," Lester wrote.
If Zimmerman does post bail, he faces a series of draconian restrictions, unlike in April when he was even allowed to reside outside of the state due to threats against his life.
This time around he must stay in Seminole County and be subjected to electronic monitoring at his own expense. He must not consume any alcohol, open a bank account, or obtain a passport, and he is banned from entering Orlando-Sanford International airport.
Zimmerman, 28, has pleaded not guilty, claiming that he acted in self-defense when he shot dead Martin during a confrontation in Sanford, Florida.
Zimmerman told police he had been tracking Martin, whom he had viewed as suspicious, and shot and killed the teenager after being assaulted by him.
Witnesses reported seeing a scuffle but it is not clear who threw the first punch or what ensued.
The case caused consternation, mainly over authorities' initial reluctance to press charges against Zimmerman, who insists that he acted within his rights under Florida's controversial stand-your-ground law.
Thursday's ruling followed two three-hour bond hearings in which rival attorneys debated Zimmerman's credibility, which has been badly damaged by the revelations that he lied about his finances.
Zimmerman's wife Shellie has been charged with perjury over the money issue and was arrested and briefly jailed before posting a $1,000 bond.
"This increased bail is not a punishment," Lester wrote Thursday. "It is meant to allay this court's concern that the defendant intended to flee the jurisdiction and a lesser amount would not ensure his presence in court."
The racially-charged case - the victim was black, the shooter is half-white, half-Hispanic - set off a wave of protests before police finally arrested Zimmerman on April 11 and charged him with second-degree murder.
Sanford police chief Bill Lee was fired last month over the response to the incident. -AFP