The judge who threw George Zimmerman back in jail four weeks ago, stopping just short of calling him and his wife liars, will listen again Friday to Zimmerman’s plea to be freed.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. is expected to say yes, but it’s not clear how much bail he’ll ask Zimmerman to post. Last time, the judge set bail at $150,000 but that was before he learned about an online fundraising campaign raking in $1,000 a day.
Friday’s hearing will likely be far different from the one April 20 at which Lester first said yes to Zimmerman’s release.
Back then, the prime witnesses were Zimmerman’s family: his wife, father and mother, who testified by phone.
What his wife said that day ultimately led to her arrest earlier this month on a perjury charge that’s pending.
Special Prosecutor Angela Corey alleges that Shellie Zimmerman, 25, lied when she told the judge she and her husband were broke. The day she testified, according to records Corey produced last week, Shellie Zimmerman had $57,000 in her personal bank account.
Shellie Zimmerman is not on Friday’s witness list. Defense attorney Mark O’Mara has indicated he’ll call two witnesses, both bail bondsmen.
George Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for killing Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26 in Sanford in what has become one of the most prominent civil-rights criminal cases in the country. Zimmerman, 28, says he acted in self-defense.
Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, plan to be at Friday’s hearing.
“We’re waiting to see if Zimmerman might take the stand,” their attorney Benjamin Crump said Thursday. “It’ll be an interesting day tomorrow.”
Martin’s parents were at Zimmerman’s first bond hearing and listened stone-faced when he took the witness stand and issued a short, emotionless apology to them.
Afterward Crump said they were devastated by the judge’s decision to free Zimmerman on bail.
Although Zimmerman testified briefly at that hearing, he made no attempt to correct what his wife said about the family’s finances.
That, according to the judge, was a mistake.
“... He has now demonstrated that he does not properly respect the law or the integrity of the judicial process,” wrote the judge. Zimmerman and his wife had transferred $135,000 between accounts in the days prior to the bond hearing, the judge noted.
At Friday’s hearing, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda is expected to again ask the judge to keep Zimmerman locked up, and, if not that, to set bail at $1 million.
O’Mara argued in paperwork filed earlier this week that Zimmerman broke no rules while he was free on bail and that he surrendered when the judge revoked bond. The defendant realizes now that remaining silent about all that money rolling in was a mistake, O’Mara wrote.
Late Thursday, the judge said yes to allowing Zimmerman to wear street clothes and no shackles at Friday’s hearing.
Federal court records show that in July 2007, Zimmerman failed to show up for a deposition in a federal civil lawsuit he had filed against his employer and, as a consequence, was fined $10,000.
Zimmerman had sued Aames Funding Corp. of Maitland, alleging he had been cheated out of overtime pay. He wound up with a check for $18,220, according to court records — but never paid the fine.
Attorneys for more than a dozen news companies will be at Friday’s hearing, arguing for the release of several public records, including 150 phone calls Zimmerman made from jail and the statement of “witness 9.”
She’s thought to be Zimmerman’s former girlfriend, who called Sanford police two days after Trayvon’s shooting and told them Zimmerman has “racist ideologies,” according to a police report.
The judge earlier ruled that both of those things should be released.