After a Florida judge set a $1 million bond on George Zimmerman Thursday, along with new restrictions, Zimmerman walked out of jail today. In his ruling Judge Kenneth R. Lester Jr. said that he believes Zimmerman may have been planning to flee the country and escape prosecution in the death of Trayvon Martin. Lester wrote that the discovery of an undisclosed second passport belonging to Zimmerman impacted his judgment.
“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 said. “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.”
Zimmerman is required to stay in Seminole County as one of the conditions of his release while he awaits his second-degree murder trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin.
Though the judge considered the defendant a flight risk, he deemed that Zimmerman’s withholding of funds and financial information from the court was not enough to hold him without bail. “This court has, thus far, declined to exercise its contempt powers and the state failed to prove that the defendant may be held without bond,” the order said.
In order to satisfy bail requirements, Zimmerman had to post $100,000, 10 percent of the $1 million bond. However, the Zimmerman family had to put up $1 million in collateral as well.
While Zimmerman was allowed to leave Florida after his first release in April, this time he can’t even leave the county—though his lawyers will try to appeal to the court to give him more freedom since they say he is still getting threats on his life. He must be electronically monitored, can’t open a bank account, obtain a passport or set foot on the grounds of the local airport. He has a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
“He’s very happy to be out,” said Don West, one of Zimmerman’s attorneys. “Certainly it’s been a sobering experience being in that kind of environment.”
O’Mara reported that contributions to Zimmerman’s defense fund have dwindled since the suspect’s bond was originally revoked. “Supporters have told us they were concerned that the court would set such a high bond that getting George out of jail could risk wiping out the entire defense account. It appears that they were right,” O’Mara said. “However, George needs an aggressive defense and to help with that he also needs to be out of jail with his wife and family assisting his legal team.”
The new bond restrictions were placed on Zimmerman after the court “thwarted” Zimmerman’s plans to flee, in Lester’s own words. The defendant must report to court officials every two days, will not be allowed to open or maintain a bank account, cannot be on the property of any airport, and cannot apply or obtain a passport. In addition, Zimmerman will be held to a curfew between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., and will be monitored electronically.
Last month, Zimmerman’s original bail of $150,000 was revoked when prosecutors revealed that Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, had been dishonest about the amount of donations the family had received. An attorney for the Martin family, Benjamin Crump, said that the family would have preferred that Zimmerman stayed in jail, but supported the decision.