Judge to Rule Next Week on Second Bail for George Zimmerman

george zimmerman bail hearing
Accused murderer George Zimmerman

A month after he ordered George Zimmerman back to jail for misleading the court about his finances, a Florida judge heard arguments on Friday on whether Mr. Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer, should be freed again.

But after nearly three hours of testimony, Judge Kenneth R. Lester Jr. of the Seminole County Circuit Court, near Orlando, left the bench without ruling. He is expected to do so in writing next week.

Appearing in the courtroom in a gray suit and tie, Mr. Zimmerman, 28, listened as lawyers sparred over his trustworthiness and the penalty he should pay for having misled the court. Judge Lester revoked his bond on June 1 after new evidence revealed that Mr. Zimmerman had failed to tell the court at his initial bond hearing that he had a large sum of money in the bank.

A forensic accounting expert, Adam Magill, testified on Friday that on April 20, the day of the bond hearing, Mr. Zimmerman had a total of about $130,000 in his own checking account and in those of his wife and his sister. In the days before that, the money had been transferred in chunks out of a PayPal account connected to Mr. Zimmerman’s legal defense Web site.

Relying on tapes of jailhouse conversation between Mr. Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, prosecutors said that Ms. Zimmerman had lied about the existence of the money, which at one point totaled more than $200,000. They said she had helped Mr. Zimmerman conceal the cash and that they used coded words to discuss the plan.

Ms. Zimmerman told the court during the April 20 bond hearing that the family had no money, and a $150,000 bond was set. Two weeks ago, she was charged with perjury.

“The defendant spoke to his wife, and they used code,” said Bernie de la Rionda, the prosecutor. They did so, he said, “to make sure that whoever was listening didn’t know what was going on. It was done to hide the money so they could mislead the court.”

Perhaps misleading was the wrong word, Mr. Magill said. “I would say it was to look like he didn’t have money,” he added.

Mark O’Mara, Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer, acknowledged Friday that his client should have been honest with the court.

“He should have jumped up and said she is lying,” Mr. O’Mara said of Ms. Zimmerman’s testimony. “He should have done something. And he didn’t.”

But he then went on to portray his client as reliable and cooperative. After Mr. Martin’s death, he did everything that was asked of him by the police and prosecutors, including provide 11 statements, Mr. O’Mara said. A probation officer testified Friday that Mr. Zimmerman was “a model client.”

Rather than squander the $205,000 he received in donations, Mr. Zimmerman used a portion of it to pay bills and debts. Mr. Zimmerman has been unemployed since shortly after the shooting.

Mr. Magill testified that $24,000 was spent to pay credit card debts and two auto loans and to pay back the bulk of $4,500 Mr. Zimmerman borrowed from his mother. A portion of the money was spent on living expenses. The $130,000 that was transferred out of the PayPal account on April 20 was all accounted for, Mr. Magill said.

“A conspiracy to deceive has a purpose,” Mr. O’Mara said. “What was the purpose here? Get out on a lower bond and skedaddle, or get out of town, or keep the money for yourself?”

“The maneuvering of the PayPal money in and out was just maneuvering without any true negative intent,” Mr. O’Mara added. “This is not the grand conspiracy the state seems to suggest,” he said.

Mr. O’Mara said after the hearing that the defense fund, which is in a trust, now has $211,000.

Mr. Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch leader, is charged with fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, a Black unarmed teenager, as Trayvon walked to a house in Sanford, Fla., where he was a guest. Mr. Zimmerman told the police he fired his weapon in self-defense after Trayvon punched him repeatedly and slammed his head into the pavement. He has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors say the killing was not justified.

The Feb. 26 shooting generated outrage after Mr. Zimmerman was not initially arrested, raising questions about Florida’s broad self-defense laws and racial profiling.

At Friday’s hearing, Robert Zimmerman, Mr. Zimmerman’s father, made his first appearance in court.

A former magistrate judge, he identified his son’s voice on a 911 tape in which someone can be overheard screaming “Help” repeatedly in the background just before the pop of a gunshot.

“It was absolutely George’s,” Mr. Zimmerman said of the voice on the tape.