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Court Sets Bail at $1 Million in Zimmerman Case

11:06 am in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

Cross posted from Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

Seminole County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester set bail today at $1 million in the George Zimmerman case.

Go here to view his order.

George Zimmerman with an American Flag superimposed over his face.

Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr

This means that unless Zimmerman has $1 million to post with the Clerk of the Seminole County Circuit Court to secure his release, he will have to pay a bail bondsman $100,000 (the 10% non-refundable fee charged by the bail bondsman to post the company’s bond or promise to pay $1 million to the court if Zimmerman rabbits on the bond). The bail bondsman also will require Zimmerman to secure the bonding company with cash and/or property worth $1 million.

Real estate is typically used to secure a bond this high and, unless Mark O’Mara already has a person or persons lined up with equitable interests in their real estate greater than $1 million, it may take awhile to put a deal together that satisfies the bonding company. A current appraisal of the properties reliably indicating their fair market value, reports on the financial status of any loans secured by those properties and a title report are normally required.

As y’all know, I would have issued an order denying bail based on Zimmerman’s role in misrepresenting to the court that he was indigent while at the same time he conceived and directed the efforts of at least two family members (his wife and sister) to carry out a scheme to conceal his possession of $155,000 donated to him over the internet by transferring the money into their accounts before his bail hearing and transferring it back into his account after he bonded out.

Although Judge Lester characterized Zimmerman’s misconduct in substantially similar language, including a reference to Zimmerman’s failure to surrender the second passport such that it would not have been unreasonable for the court to have concluded that Zimmerman carried out this fraudulent scheme with the intent of fleeing the country, he decided to increase the bail substantially rather than deny bail because the State of Florida had not charged Zimmerman with any crime.

I interpret his decision as sending a message to the prosecution basically telling them that he does not believe he should deny bail to Zimmerman unless they charge Zimmerman with a crime. He even mentions a charge of criminal contempt as one possibility.

I have written about the possibility of charging Zimmerman with perjury based on his conduct directing his wife’s efforts to hide the money from the court. Her perjured denial under oath of any knowledge regarding how much money had been received from donors via the internet is but a natural and reasonably foreseeable consequence of Zimmerman’s scheme to conceal the money from the court. Nevertheless, convicting him of perjury on an accomplice theory may be difficult without his wife’s assistance and willingness to testify that he told her to lie to the court, if the judge or the lawyers asked her if she knew how much money had been donated.

If the prosecutors want George Zimmerman to be in jail for the duration of this case, they should not have any doubt as to what they must do to secure that outcome.

Meanwhile I do not believe Judge Lester’s order can reasonably be interpreted as an expression of doubt regarding the strength of the prosecution’s case against Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin. He explained that he initially found that the prosecution’s case was “strong” because the defendant did not testify at the first bail hearing and the defense did not present any evidence of self-defense. He also specifically characterized the evidence presented by the defense at the recently concluded bail hearing in support of Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense as having “little relevance” to the issue of bail.

Therefore, I caution against assuming that Judge Lester he has formed an opinion or reached any conclusions regarding the viability of Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.

Is George Zimmerman About to be Charged with Perjury?

5:10 pm in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

Cross posted from my law blog.

George Zimmerman with an American Flag superimposed over his face.

Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr

We have a bond hearing coming up on Friday, but I do not believe Zimmerman has a realistic chance to get bail. The recorded jailhouse telephone calls leave no doubt that he and his wife conspired to conceal the $155,000 that they had at their disposal when they were claiming indigency. She actually lied under oath in court and there is little doubt her husband put her up to it.

Then there is the troubling matter of the passport . . .

She cannot testify because she is charged with perjury and her lawyer will advise her not to testify because anything she might say can and most assuredly will be used against her.

He is in the same position, even though he is not charged with perjury, yet.

That’s right, folks.

Just because he has not been charged with perjury, does not mean that he won’t be charged.

So let’s take a look at the subject of accomplice liability for criminal behavior.

Section 2.06(3) of the Model Penal Code defines an accomplice:

A person is an accomplice of another person in the commission of a crime if:

(a) with the purpose of promoting or facilitating the commission of the offense, he

(i) solicits such other person to commit it; or

(ii) aids or agrees or attempts to aid such other person in planning or committing it; or

(iii) having a legal duty to prevent the commission of the offense, fails to make proper effort so to do; or

(b) his conduct is expressly declared by law to establish his complicity.

By now, I think most of us have listened to the recorded jailhouse conversations between GZ and SZ. Although I do not recall a conversation in which GZ and SZ specifically discussed a strategy to use in court to conceal the $155,000 he had received in donations to his PayPal account, there is no question that, pursuant to his instructions, she moved all of that money around in amounts less than $10,000 each time between three accounts (theirs and his sister’s) during the four-day period before the bond hearing.

When she was questioned at the bond hearing regarding whether she could estimate how much money was in the PayPal account, she responded that she had no idea. That response is the basis for the perjury charge.

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George Zimmerman: Court Sets $150,000 Bail: UPDATED With Courtroom Video

12:11 pm in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

I am having trouble embedding the CBS courtroom video of George Zimmerman’s apology to Trayvon Martin’s parents and his cross examination by prosecutor Bernie de la Rosa, so here is a link.

[Ed. Note - that youtube had embedding disabled. We found another version, and have added it.]

As I predicted two days ago, the court set bail in the amount of $150,000 (I actually predicted at least $100,000). The other conditions of release are almost identical to the conditions that I predicted.

Brian Bracker of the Guardian reports the conditions are:

1. Home confinement with electronic and GPS monitoring — he is going to be staying at a secret (to us) location;

2. No possession of firearms;

3. No contact with any member of Martin’s family;

4. Attend regular meetings with pretrial release officers.

He testified at the bail hearing, which is unusual, and apologized to Trayvon Martin’s family.

Zimmerman’s mother testified at the hearing. His father and wife testified by telephone.

Dale Gilbreath, the detective who signed off on the affidavit of probable cause, also testified at the hearing. When cross-examined by defense counsel, Mark O’Mara, he admitted that, instead of saying “Zimmerman confronted Martin,” he should have used a different word.

When prosecuting attorney, Bernie de la Rionda, asked him whether there is any evidence that suggests Zimmerman’s statement to the police is not true, Gilbreath answered, “Yes.” Read the rest of this entry →

Judge Recuses Herself In Zimmerman Case

2:16 pm in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

As I predicted in my last post, Judge Jessica Recksiedler of the Seminole County Circuit Court in Florida signed an order today granting George Zimmerman’s motion to recuse her from presiding over the Zimmerman case.

Photo by Will Temple.

I did not need a crystal ball or a book of spells to predict the outcome since, by advising counsel that she had a potential conflict of interest about which they might not have been aware without her telling them, she basically invited the motion to recuse and I do not believe she was the least bit offended by the motion.

The potential conflict is that her husband is employed by a criminal defense lawyer, Mark NeJame, who has been a television commentator about the case. Someone in Zimmerman’s family contacted him about representing Zimmerman after Zimmerman fired the two lawyers who were representing him. He declined to take the case, in part because he had expressed opinions about it on television, and he recommended several lawyers, including Mark O’Mara, whom Zimmerman subsequently retained.

I do not believe Judge Recksiedler had an actual conflict of interest, but I would be surprised to discover that she and her husband had not discussed the case, especially after NeJame was contacted about representing Zimmerman before the prosecutor, Angela Corey, charged him with murder second degree.

Judges are supposed to abide by a code of judicial conduct and, in addition to recusing themselves when they have an actual conflict of interest, such as a financial interest in the outcome of a case before them, they are supposed to maintain the appearance of fairness and impartiality, regardless of what they may think about a case, the lawyers, and the litigants. Since there is a possibility that someone might question her impartiality, due to her husband’s connection to NeJame, she decided to disclose it in order to maintain the appearance of fairness.

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