George Zimmerman granted bond

Published On: Apr 20 2012 09:07:00 AM EDT
Updated On: Apr 20 2012 11:07:57 PM EDT

Hours before George Zimmerman was expected to bond out of jail, those close to Trayvon Martin's family had a hard time accepting his in-court apology.

SANFORD, Fla. -

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, was granted bond Friday during a court hearing in which he apologized to the teen's parents in open court.

Judge Kenneth Lester set the bond amount at $150,000 after the state requested an amount of $1 million if no bond would not be considered.  Lester said Zimmeman will not be released from jail on Friday.

As part of the ruling, Lester said Zimmerman cannot have any firearms, drink alcohol or use drugs and must observe a daily curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.   He must also meet with a monitoring supervisor at the Seminole County Sheriff's Office every three days.

Zimmerman's attorney, former Local 6 legal analyst Mark O'Mara, had requested a bond of $15,000 and the right for his client to leave the state and his location kept private.  Lester said he will later make a decision about Zimmerman being allowed to leave Florida.

Moments before the judge's ruling, Zimmerman said he wanted to make a short statement and apologized to Martin's parents.

"I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son. I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I, and I didn't know if he was armed or not," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman, 28, has been jailed since April 11 on second-degree murder charges in the 17-year-old's death, which took place Feb. 26 in Sanford.

Zimmerman attended the hearing wearing a gray suit and silver tie, with his hands restrained to a chain around his waist.

Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, also attended the hearing, as did the special prosecutor, State Attorney Angela Corey.

O'Mara, started the hearing by surrendering his client's passport, which expires in May 2012, to the judge.

Zimmerman's family, including his wife of five years, Shellie Zimmerman, were then allowed to testify via phone.

Shellie Zimmerman, a nursing student set to graduate in four weeks, stated that she was born in Central Florida and has lived there her whole life.  Her husband has lived in the area for eight years, she said.

Shellie Zimmerman was asked about securing money to post bond for her husband.

"We have discussed that (money for bond).  (We're) trying to pull together the members of the family to scrape up anything that we possibly can," she said.

She was also asked about safety concerns should her husband be released on bond.

"Yes, I believe that needs to happen," said Shellie Zimmerman, after being asked about keeping his location secret.

"Do you believe George is a danger to the community," O'Mara asked her.

"No, I do not," she said.  "There's no concern whatsoever."

State prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda then questioned Shellie Zimmerman about her husband's prior arrest in which he was accused of striking a law enforcement officer in 2005.

"Yes, he has informed me of those charges," she said, adding later, "He told me it was a friend of his that was being shoved up against the wall by a man in regular street clothes.  He felt his friend was in danger he was just trying to protect his friend."

The charges were dropped after Zimmerman completed a pretrial diversion program.

De la Rionda then asked Zimmerman's wife about a domestic dispute her husband had with another woman.

"Absolutely, he's not a violent person, nor is he a threat to the community," Shellie Zimmerman said.

The state then focused on the Zimmermans' finances, asking questions about their employment and a website created by her husband that's soliciting funds.

"When we were not working, we were collecting unemployment benefits," Shellie Zimmerman said.  She said they are not currently collecting unemployment benefits.

The state asked Zimmerman's wife about the time her husband went into hiding after shooting Martin.

"I have not been with my husband since he's been in hiding," she said, adding that she talked to him every day, even when he left Florida.
Shellie Zimmerman said she's received hate mail since the fatal shooting.

"Anything that happens to my husband is a personal threat to me.  "I have received hate mail," she said, adding that no direct threats to her were contained in the letters.

George Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman Sr., was then questioned by O'Mara over the phone and said that he's lived in Central Florida for more than five years.

Zimmerman Sr. said he's a disabled veteran who doesn't have a lot of money or assets.  He later told the state that his son has a car but didn't know if he owns it.

"I've never known him to be violent at all, unless he was provoked, and then he'd turn the other cheek," said Zimmerman Sr. when asked about his son's temperament.

De la Rionda asked Zimmerman's father about his son's prior arrest.

"I knew of an incident involving alcoholic beverage control officers in plain clothes," Zimmerman Sr. said, adding that he never read the arrest report.  "I believed (my son) because he's been honest his whole life."

De la Rionda also asked about George Zimmerman's interest in law enforcement.

"He's always been interested in criminal justice," said Robert Zimmerman Sr., confirming that his son majored in the subject in college, and later adding, "At some point in his life he wanted to be a magistrate or a judge.  ... "He wanted to be able to help somehow."

He was then asked about having contact with his son since the shooting.

"I've had fairly limited contact with my son since his head was beaten," Robert Zimmerman Sr. said.  "His face was swollen quite a bit.  He had a protective cover over his nose, his lip was swollen and cut, and there were two vertical gashes on the back of his head."

George Zimmerman's mother, Gladys Zimmerman, also testified at the hearing, saying she stays in frequent contact with her son and his wife.

"We have received a lot of threats," she said after being asked about her family's safety.

Zimmerman's mother said her son is protective of children and the homeless, adding that he was recognized by the Sanford mayor.

"In 2010, he found out a homeless person was beaten in Sanford, and he organized the community to ask for justice," she said, adding that he posted flyers throughout town and attended churches to raise awareness about the case.

She said her son also mentored two African-American students, a 14-year-old boy and his sister, in Orlando.

Gladys Zimmerman told the court that she would plead for her son to be careful while traveling to meet with the children.

"Please don't go, it's too dangerous," she said, adding that her son replied, 'Mom, if I don't go they don't have nobody.'"

The state did not call any witnesses.

Dale Gilbreath, a state investigator and one of two working the Martin shooting case, was called to the stand by O'Mara and questioned about the probable cause affidavit that he signed.

O'Mara asked Gilbreath about the word "profiling" that was listed in the affidavit.

"When talking to the police dispatcher, he identified (Martin) as suspicious," said Gilbreath, who also said that he has never spoken to Zimmerman.

Gilbreath further discussed the night of the fatal shooting.

"Zimmerman said he didn't want (Martin) to get away because they always get away," he said.

O'Mara continued to question Gilbreath about the language of the affidavit.

"Where did "confronting" word come from?" O'Mara asked.

"The fact that the two of them obviously ended up in that area, according to one of the witnesses we talked with, there were arguing words going on before this incident occurred," he said.

The state then talked to Gilbreath about his history in law enforcement, which has lasted more than 20 years.

Gilbreath stated that Martin had done nothing illegal and was unarmed the night he was shot dead.  At that moment, court cameras caught Zimmerman whispering something to O'Mara.

Gilbreath also recounted a phone conversation Martin had with a female in Miami, saying that another detective handled that aspect of the investigation.

Gilbreath said Zimmerman continued to follow Martin for less than a minute after being told that wasn't necessary by a police dispatcher.

"Do you know who started the fight (between Zimmerman and Martin)?" O'Mara asked.

"No," Gilbreath said.

O'Mara then focused on Zimmerman's statements to investigators on the night of the shooting.

Gilbreath said Zimmerman told officers on the night of the shooting that he was a victim because Martin had confronted him.

Gilbreath said there's no evidence that conflicts with Zimmerman's claim that Martin assaulted him first.

"As to who threw the first blow?  No," Gilbreath said.

Gilbreath said the shooting occurred in "close proximity," after being asked by the judge.

O'Mara asked Gilbreath about Zimmerman's head injuries, and Gilbreath said concrete could have caused the lacerations but didn't know exactly what caused them.

After questioning was completed, Zimmerman asked to make a statement in court.

"I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son.  I did not know how old he was.  I thought he was a little bit younger than I, and I didn't know if he was armed or not," Zimmerman said.

The state pressed Zimmerman about the comments, saying they were directed to Martin's family and the media.

"Why did you wait so long to tell them," De la Rionda said.

"I was told not to communicate with them," Zimmerman said, adding that he asked his legal representatives to express the sentiment to Martin's parents.

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