MIAMI, Jun 2 – A judge revoked bail on Friday for a Florida neighbourhood watch volunteer charged with killing an unarmed black teenager, and ordered him back to jail for misleading the court about his finances.
Prosecutors had filed a motion urging the bond to be revoked and accusing George Zimmerman of deceiving the court about his access to an Internet fundraising account and about holding a second passport, obtained two weeks after the February 26 shooting.
Seminole County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester agreed with the request and revoked bail for Zimmerman, who was not in court at the time. He said the guard had engaged in a “material falsehood” about his finances in the run-up to his April bail hearing.
Zimmerman faces second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.
The case set off a wave of protests because police initially refused to take legal action against Zimmerman, 28, accepting his assertion that he shot the 17-year-old teenager in self-defence.
Following a wave of protests, Zimmerman was arrested April 11 and released on bail April 23. He has since been living at an undisclosed location, amid preliminary hearings and a continuing state investigation.
“The defendant through Ms Zimmerman lied to this court about the amount of money they had” during an April bond hearing, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda told the judge.
He called the statements “misleading,” adding: “I don’t know what other words to use other than it was a blatant lie.”
Zimmerman’s lawyer Mark O’Mara said he hoped the bond would only be revoked temporarily.
“I understand that there’s frustration because of the way it happened at the bond hearing,” O’Mara told reporters after the hearing.
“I think Judge Lester runs a very tight courtroom… and he was frustrated because he doesn’t think that they were being as straightforward and as honest as he thought they should.”
He expressed hope that the judge would grant Zimmerman his day in court to explain his behaviour and “look at all the circumstances.”
O’Mara later told CNN that there was “no question” that Zimmerman and his wife Shelly knew about the money, adding that his team had acknowledged that in previous correspondence with the judge.
“The question of whether or not they presented it properly – I think it was somewhat misleading to the court. I’ve gone over that with George,” O’Mara said.
As for the second passport, O’Mara said that Zimmerman mailed it to him in late April, and that he had been holding the document all this time.
Zimmerman had earlier surrendered his first passport, which expired in May 2012. The second passport expired in 2013, and Zimmerman spoke to his wife about that passport while in jail, according to a transcript of jailhouse phone call recordings included in the prosecution’s motion.
Zimmerman “intentionally deceived the court… with the assistance of his wife,” read the motion the prosecution filed to revoke the bond.
“During the jailhouse calls, both of them spoke in code to hide what they were doing.”
In setting Zimmerman’s bond at $150,000 “the court relied on false representations and statements” by the defendant and his wife, read the document signed by Special Prosecutor Angela Corey.
Prosecutors say Zimmerman raised tens of thousands of dollars from online donations via a PayPal account for his legal defence, even as he was claiming to have no money.
Last month, O’Mara said that Zimmerman had raised more than $200,000 through a fund set up through the online payment system PayPal.
That fund, however, was shut down in favour of a new account maintained by a third party.