A neighborhood watch volunteer accused of shooting dead an unarmed black teenager in Florida was in jail Monday after a judge revoked his bail for allegedly misleading the court.
George Zimmerman, 28, faces second degree murder charges over the death of Trayvon Martin, 17, who was heading home from a late-night run to a convenience store in Sanford, Florida when he was shot following a confrontation.
The racially-charged case caused an uproar in the United States, mainly over the authorities’ initial reluctance to press charges against Zimmerman, who insists that he acted in self-defense in the February 26 incident.
But the judge on Friday revoked Zimmerman’s bail and ordered him to return to jail after prosecutors argued he had misled the court about having no money, despite tens of thousands of dollars sitting in online fundraising accounts.
Zimmerman turned himself in shortly before a 48-hour deadline to surrender expired.
Minutes after Zimmerman was escorted back to a solitary cell in handcuffs, defense attorney Mark O’Mara told reporters he planned to seek a hearing to ensure his client is freed.
The attorney said he is “just hoping the judge will give us an audience and we can further explain away why what happened seems to have happened.”
O’Mara said he understood that the veracity of Zimmerman’s story might have been dealt a blow if the court feels it had been deliberately misled, but insisted it was a misunderstanding.
“I don’t think it addresses the case specifically. Certainly there is a credibility question that now needs to be rehabilitated by explaining away what they were thinking when they did what they did if that’s what happened. We’ll address it,” O’Mara said.
The judge in April set Zimmerman’s bond at $150,000, but prosecutors say that figure relied on “false representations and statements” by the defendant and his wife.
Zimmerman’s wife testified at the time that the couple had no assets or income to put toward a bond. The suspect’s father said he was prepared to take out a second mortgage on his house to help raise the money.
O’Mara expressed the hope the issue will be resolved soon.
“The vast majority of the funds in question are in an independently managed trust, and neither Mr. Zimmerman or his attorneys have direct access to the money,” Zimmerman’s defense said in a statement on its website, which expressed hope that Zimmerman’s “voluntary surrender to Sanford police will help demonstrate to the court that he is not a flight risk.”
Prosecutors also accused Zimmerman on Friday of owning two passports and failing to surrender the second one at the bond hearing in April.
Zimmerman had reported in 2004 that it had been lost or stolen, but in its motion, the prosecution quoted jailhouse calls between Zimmerman and his wife talking about the second passport.
Zimmerman’s return to jail represents just the latest twist in the case, which prompted protests in several US cities and comments from President Barack Obama, who said if he’d had a son he would have looked like Trayvon.
Prosecutors say Martin was simply “minding his own business” when he was accosted and shot dead by Zimmerman after buying some Skittles and a bottle of ice tea from a local store.
Zimmerman told police he had been tracking Martin after viewing him as suspicious but shot purely in self-defense after being assaulted. Police photos released later showed a bloody gash on the back of the guard’s head.
Seminole County Sheriff Donald Eslinger told reporters that Zimmerman was “quiet and cooperative,” as he was booked Sunday.
He was to have “a new mugshot taken and would be fingerprinted again, too. He will be kept in administrative confinement with a cell to himself, the same arrangement as before,” Eslinger said.
On his website Sunday, O’Mara wrote that Zimmerman’s defense team coordinated his re-arrest with the Sanford Police Department “to ensure Mr Zimmerman’s security.”
“While out on bond, Mr Zimmerman has been living in a secure, undisclosed location as there are significant threats against his life,” he added.