George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer accused of wrongly killing Trayvon Martin, will not immediately have to turn over donations made to his website, a Florida judge said Friday.
Zimmerman collected about $204,000 in donations through the website, but did not disclose the contributions during his bond hearing last week, according to his attorney, Mark O’Mara.
Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda asked Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. to increase Zimmerman’s $150,000 bond. But the judge said he would delay ruling on the request, in part because he does not know if he has authority to say how the money can be used.
Lester and O’Mara both said they are concerned about releasing the names of donors to Zimmerman, who has faced threats since the case began making national headlines in March.
“My fear is they may well be targeted for reprisals or animosities or whatever,” O’Mara told reporters after the hearing.
Zimmerman’s family testified last week at his bond hearing that they did not have the kind of resources that would have been necessary to meet the prosecution’s suggested $1 million bond.
Zimmerman, 28, was released Monday on $150,000 bail, 10% of which was put up to secure his release while he awaits trial on a second-degree murder charge in Martin’s February 26 death.
About $5,000 from the website contribution was used in making bond, O’Mara said. The rest came from a loan secured by a family home.
Although Zimmerman spent some of the contributions on living expenses, about $150,000 remains, O’Mara said Friday. O’Mara said he has put the money into a trust he controls until a final decision is made about its use.
Lester asked for additional information about the accounts but did not indicate when he would rule.
“I’m not going to make a snap decision,” Lester said.
Also during Friday’s hearing, Lester declined to consider a gag order requested by prosecutors, saying it was premature and that none of the attorneys in the case had said anything to concern him so far. CNN was among the media organizations opposing the motion.
O’Mara said he learned about the money on Wednesday as he and Zimmerman were trying to shut down Zimmerman’s website, Facebook page and Twitter account to avoid concerns about possible impersonators and other problems.
“He asked me what to do with his PayPal accounts, and I asked him what he was talking about,” O’Mara told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday. “He said those were the accounts that had the money from the website he had. And there was about … $204,000 that had come in to date.”
O’Mara had said earlier this month that he believed Zimmerman had no money.
Asked whether knowledge of the money might have made a difference to Lester, who presided at Zimmerman’s bond hearing, O’Mara said, “It might have.”
O’Mara could not explain why Zimmerman didn’t disclose the funds, but said he didn’t think his client had meant to deceive anyone.
“If that was an oversight by him, then it was. And quite honestly, with everything he’s going through for the past several weeks, if that’s the only oversight he’s committed, we’ll deal with it, Judge Lester will deal with it,” he said.
Florida judge rejects bail hike for Trayvon Martin’s killer
Needs more information about Zimmerman fund raising
SANFORD, Florida (Reuters) – A Florida judge rejected a prosecution request to raise the bond for George Zimmerman on Friday, after it was disclosed that the man charged with murdering unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin had received about $200,000 from anonymous donors to fund his defense.
“I’m not going to make a snap decision,” Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. said during a hearing in Sanford, the central Florida town where 17-year-old Martin was shot dead by Zimmerman in February.
He spoke after Prosecutor Bernardo de la Rionda said the disclosure by Zimmerman’s lawyer on Thursday that donors had contributed “just over $200,000” to his defense meant that the amount of his bond should be reconsidered.
Lester said he needed more information about Zimmerman’s fund-raising before he could agree to any request for reconsideration of the bond.