NEW: Defense attorney says family faces challenges in arranging bond
A judge orders $1 million bond for George Zimmerman
Prosecutors say Zimmerman can't be trusted
Zimmerman's initial bond was revoked after he and his wife failed to disclose contributions
A Florida judge on Thursday set a $1 million bond with new restrictions on George Zimmerman, saying he believes the suspect may have been planning to flee the country to avoid prosecution in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Judge Kenneth R. Lester Jr. found that Zimmerman’s deceit over cash holdings at his first bond hearing in April 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.
Zimmerman will have to post 10% of the $1 million – or $100,000 – to meet the requirement for bail.
But an even bigger challenge is finding a bail bond company that will work with the family on the requirement of $1 million in collateral, defense attorney Mark O’Mara said later Thursday. The family does “not have anywhere near” the collateral amount, according to the attorney.
“We are encouraged we can work this out,” O’Mara said in a statement.
Donations to Zimmerman’s legal defense fund have dropped significantly while Zimmerman has been jailed, O’Mara said.
“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. 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 fund has a $211,000 balance, but has $40,000 in payables for defense expenses.
“Paying bond and scheduled expenses would effectively wipe out the existing balance,” O’Mara said.
O’Mara argued that Zimmerman should not be jailed because the state’s case is weak and his claim of self-defense is strong.
The original bail of $150,000 was revoked last month after Lester learned Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, had failed to disclose more than $150,000 in donations from the public.
The judge’s order Thursday said that the new $1 million bond was not a punishment but an amount that assured the court that Zimmerman would not abscond.
Zimmerman has the money to pay for his release, the court said.
In his ruling, Lester wrote about the first bond hearing and noted an undisclosed second passport kept in Zimmerman’s safe deposit box.
“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.”
Lester wrote the defendant’s plans to flee were “thwarted.”
Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder in Martin’s February 26 shooting death. Under Florida law, second-degree murder is a bondable offense.
Prosecutors had asked for bond to be denied or, if not, for it to be set at $1 million.
Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said the parents preferred that Zimmerman remain in jail, but “they respect the ruling of the court and the strong message that the judge sent that deference to judicial integrity is paramount to all court proceedings.”
“Furthermore, they understand that this is not a sprint to justice, but a long journey to justice that they must bear for their son Trayvon,” Crump said.
The order said the evidence shows that Zimmerman and his wife acted together to conceal their cash holdings during the original bond hearing.
“Under any definition, the defendant has (flouted) the system,” the order said. “The defendant has tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so.”
Lester imposed new restrictions on Zimmerman that he did not face when he was out on bond the first time.
Zimmerman must report to officials every two days, cannot open or maintain a bank account and cannot be on the property of an airport. He also cannot apply for or obtain a passport.
Zimmerman must abide by a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and like before, will be monitored electronically.
Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda argued before the judge last week that Zimmerman should remain in jail without bail because he was complicit in lying to the court and can’t be trusted.
Forensic accountant Adam Magill testified that thousands of dollars in donated funds flowed into and out of Zimmerman’s bank account in the days before the first bail hearing.
Magill said it appeared Zimmerman and his wife were speaking in code during recorded jailhouse telephone conversations about the amount of money involved. He also said that transferring funds between accounts could have been done to make it appear that Zimmerman had less money available for bail than he did.
De la Rionda reiterated that prosecutors believe Martin, a 17-year-old African-American, was an innocent victim who was confronted by Zimmerman without provocation.
Zimmerman, a Sanford neighborhood watch volunteer, acknowledged fatally shooting the unarmed Martin after calling police to report a suspicious person. Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, said Martin attacked him.
CNN’s John Couwels and Vivian Kuo contributed to this report.