In the eyes of a Florida judge, George Zimmerman is a liar and manipulator who was likely planning to flee from prosecution earlier this year.
But Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. said on Thursday that the law still forces him to grant the man bail again while awaiting trial for the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
The judge’s comments came in a scathing eight-page order that gave Zimmerman a $1 million bond but made it clear Lester has little reason to trust him after what happened the last time he was released from jail.Zimmerman’s previous bond was revoked last month after prosecutors alleged that he and his wife conspired to hide a huge amount of money from authorities and the judge. Prosecutors ended up charging the wife, Shellie Zimmerman, with perjury after she testified during a previous hearing that she had no knowledge of how much money was available.
In his order, Lester noted that Zimmerman’s attorneys tried to portray their client at a hearing last week as a scared young man who made a simple mistake by not telling authorities or his own attorneys that he had managed to raise more than $200,000 online for his defense.
But the judge said Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman who had law enforcement training before the killing, had a “very sophisticated knowledge of the criminal justice system” and knew exactly what he was doing.
“The Defendant has tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so,” Lester wrote.
The judge also noted that Zimmerman had neglected to tell authorities about a second passport he kept in a safe deposit box. Coupled with the amount of cash he had raised using a crudely built website and a PayPal account, Zimmerman was in a position where he could have done almost anything.
“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,” the judge wrote.
Zimmerman will likely have to pay a professional bondsman just 10 percent ($100,000) of the bond amount to get out of jail. A spokeswoman with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said Zimmerman was still in jail early Thursday afternoon just a short time after the order was released.
The bond this time is significantly higher than the $150,000 that was set the last time, but the judge said he believed it was still within Zimmerman’s reach.
It was unclear what Zimmerman planned to do, but his attorney, Mark O’Mara, told the Orlando Sentinel there was more than enough money in the legal defense fund to pay a bondsman.
If he posts the bond, Zimmerman’s life outside of jail will not be easy. The judge ordered that Zimmerman could not maintain or set up any bank accounts, that he must obey a curfew between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and that he will be electronically monitored at all times.
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