George Zimmerman Prepared to Flee US with $130,000, Judge Says
(SANFORD, Fla.) -- George Zimmerman was preparing to flee the U.S. with his wife and $130,000 donated by supporters while he was out of jail on bond awaiting his murder trial for the death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida judge wrote Thursday.
Zimmerman, whose bail was raised to $1 million, "was preparing to flee to avoid prosecution, but such plans were thwarted," Judge Kenneth Lester wrote in the bond order released Thursday.
Lester berated Zimmerman for misleading the court about how much money he and his wife had stashed in bank accounts. In June, prosecutors proved to the court that Zimmerman had tried to appear indigent to the judge, when in reality he had hundreds of thousands of dollars that supporters had donated to help his legal defense.
Lester said that Zimmerman "flaunted the system," by misleading the court about how much cash he and his wife had in bank accounts.
Zimmerman was out on $150,000 bond when the ruse was discovered by prosecutors. He had been charged in April with second-degree murder for killing the unarmed 17-year-old in February.
Zimmerman quickly created a website through which supporters could donate money to go toward his defense fund. Lester said it was easy to conclude that Zimmerman was going to use the money raised through the website to flee.
"It is entirely reasonable for this court to find that, but for the requirement that he be placed on electronic monitoring, the defendant and his wife would have fled the United States with at least $130,000 of other people's money," Lester wrote.
"The defendant also neglected to disclose that he had a valid second passport in his safe deposit box. Notably, together with the passport, the money only had to be hidden for a short time for him to leave the country if the defendant made a quick decision to flee," the judge wrote.
Prosecutors declined to comment on Lester's order, and Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, had no immediate comment.
Lester ordered Thursday that Zimmerman could only be released from jail now if he could come up with $1 million bond, which Zimmerman may be able to do by drawing on the more than $200,000 in donations and paying 10 percent to a bail bondsman.
Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara said Zimmerman's credibility will now be a major issue which he will have to address.
O'Mara also argued for the bond last week, telling the judge that the prosecution had a weak case against his client.
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