Judge gives Zimmerman $1M bail despite 'manipulating' the system - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Judge: Zimmerman 'manipulated' the system, gets $1M bail

SANFORD, FL (RNN) - George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who admitted to shooting and killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, has been granted bail after a judge determined he manipulated facts during his initial bond hearing.

"The defendant has flaunted the system," Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. wrote in court documents. "It appears to this court that the defendant is manipulating the system for his own benefit."

Because Zimmerman hasn't been charged with any crimes while he was out on bail - including lying to the court about his financial situation - Lester set Zimmerman's bail at $1 million. The amount is nearly seven times more than his original bail of $150,000.

Zimmerman has been back in jail since June 3, two days after his bond was revoked because Zimmerman and his family had knowingly lied about how much money he had access to.

He also had a second, valid passport which had not been turned over to authorities when he was arrested.

According to Lester, the combination meant "the money [from Zimmerman's defense fund] only had to be hidden for a short time for him to leave the country if the defendant made a quick decision 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."

Further, Lester wrote he believed Zimmerman was preparing to "flee ... but such plans were thwarted."

As a precaution, Zimmerman is required to continue GPS monitoring and stay in Seminole County, FL. He must also check in with the Pre-Trial Release Department every 48 hours, obey a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., refrain from drinking alcohol and keep away from the Orlando-Sanford International Airport.

He is also forbidden from "open[ing] or maintain[ing] a bank account."

At a June 29 bond hearing, a forensic finance specialist told the court the Zimmermans' financial records showed multiple large transfers just under $10,000 - the amount needed to trigger a report to the IRS. Prosecutors alleged the transfers were proof the Zimmermans were trying to hide the money.

Zimmerman's attorney told the court his client wasn't conspiring to hide the funds, but was instead delaying their disclosure. Attorney Mark O'Mara asked the judge to reinstate Zimmerman's initial bond, as his client has been cooperative with police throughout the case.

At a bond hearing on April 20, Zimmerman was released on bail with mandatory GPS monitoring, but on April 27, Zimmerman admitted fundraising for his defense had netted approximately $150,000. Prosecutors asked the court to readdress Zimmerman's bail on the basis he had knowingly misled the court.

Zimmerman's wife, Shelly, was arrested and charged with perjury on June 12 for her involvement in hiding how much money the couple had access to. She had told the court on April 20 the family was destitute, but recorded jailhouse conversations between her and George Zimmerman showed the two talking in code about how much money they had in their bank account.

Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder on April 11, more than a month after he shot Martin on Feb. 26. He has maintained that he shot the teen in self-defense after Martin reached towards Zimmerman's gun during a confrontation.

Martin was walking back to his father's house in a gated community in the Orlando suburb of Sanford when Zimmerman called police, reporting Martin as a "suspicious person." When police arrived on scene, Martin was dead with a single gunshot wound to his chest.

If convicted, Zimmerman could face up to life in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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