SANFORD, Fla. (CBS Tampa/AP) — Calling it an “oversight,” George Zimmerman’s attorney said Friday the neighborhood watch volunteer did not disclose that a website had raised more than $200,000 for his defense, even though his family told the judge they would have trouble coming up with his bond.
“Quite honestly, with everything he is going through over the past several weeks, if that is the only oversight committed, then we’ll deal with it,” said Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara.
O’Mara claimed the family was not trying to be deceptive, but Florida Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said he wanted to know more about the money. O’Mara doesn’t think the judge will change Zimmerman’s bond in light of the new information.
Zimmerman was released from jail earlier this week, and has gone into hiding ever since over concerns about his safety. He is accused of second-degree murder for the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager. Zimmerman wasn’t charged for more than six weeks, setting off nationwide protests. He claims self-defense.
The issue of race, which has played a significant role in national discourse about Trayvon’s death, was complicated by the disclosure that Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is from Peru.
An attorney for Martin’s family said the teenager’s parents were “offended” Zimmerman did not tell the judge about the money.
“This is a bombshell that was dropped,” Benjamin Crump said.
O’Mara said he learned about the money this week, after Zimmerman’s release. The family used $5,000 from the website as well as a second mortgage on their home to bail out Zimmerman, O’Mara said. Zimmerman has also used some of the money for living expenses.
Zimmerman disclosed the $200,000 when his defense attorney was closing down his social media accounts and the website earlier this week, O’Mara said.
“We just didn’t have a lot of conversations around money and the website,” O’Mara said.
The defense has started a Facebook page and Twitter account for Zimmerman, and another website under O’Mara’s control, http://www.gzlegalcase.com . It will allow supporters to donate to a legal defense fund.
“I don’t want my client to have any Internet presence unless it is through my office,” O’Mara said. “What I’m trying to do is limit the enormity of danger that comes into this case in places like Twitter and false Facebook accounts.”
Zimmerman’s lawyer said most donors had contributed in the range of several hundred dollars. He said he didn’t want their names publicized.
“My fear is they will be targeted for reprisals, animosities,” O’Mara said.
Also Friday, Lester refused the prosecution’s request to issue a gag order on those involved in the murder trial. He said he would not stop Zimmerman’s attorneys from talking to the media.
“This case is the most significant media event in the country, maybe in the world. We can’t be absolutely mute about these matters,” O’Mara said.
The hearing was called originally to decide whether Zimmerman’s court file should be opened to the public.
Typically, court records are public, but O’Mara had asked that they be sealed at his arraignment, and another judge agreed. Lester ruled that the court file will be open.
If prosecutors or O’Mara are worried about the release of specific items, they can present their concerns to Lester and he will rule on a case-by-case basis.
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