In one of the nearly 150 jailhouse phone calls made by George Zimmerman from the Seminole County Jail in the weeks after his arrest for the killing of Trayvon Martin, he can be heard asking controversial pastor Terry Jones to hold off on a planned rally in his name.
In other calls, a soft-spoken Zimmerman can be heard whispering sweet nothings in his wife’s ear. Other conversations are conducted in coded language about family in-fighting, lawyers and thousands of dollars in supporter donations.
During an April 19 phone call with Terry Jones — the Gainseville, Fla., minister best known for his controversial Quran burnings and hanging President Barack Obama in effigy on the church’s front lawn — Zimmerman asked Jones to hold off on a planned rally in order to allow time “for healing.”
“I was calling today to ask you humbly, from one God-fearing sinner to another, for time for healing, for not only the city of Sanford but America,” Zimmerman asked. “I know that your intentions are good, and I know that ultimately God will see his will be done, however, I see that Saturday — I just ask that you allow the city to heal and America to heal.”
Zimmerman continued: “I just ask that perhaps instead of coming Saturday and protesting, we allow law enforcement to do their job and not lose focus, and that perhaps you could even come and visit and pray with me instead of protesting.”
Zimmerman went on to tell Jones that he read the story of Jesus calming the storm and said, “I like to think this is a storm, in that Jesus is asking all of us to have faith and calm the storm.”
Jones, by his grunts in response, seems to be taken slightly aback.
“Um, okay,” Jones responded.
Jones told Zimmerman that he’d hoped to rally for constitutional rights, for the idea of innocence until guilt is proven and “to sort of counter what has been going on in the news media and to pull us back to the Constitution and pull us back to justice and, of course, part of the message will be in the area of forgiveness.”
“I think it could be a very vital step in that area but, okay, we will definitely consider that,” Jones said.
The recordings were released Monday as part of the latest evidence made public by prosecutors under Florida’s wide-reaching open records laws.
Also released yesterday were recorded interviews with a cousin of Zimmerman’s who claimed that he’d sexually molested her for more than a decade, from the time the woman, now in her mid-20s, was 6 years old.
Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder in the February 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager shot while walking through the gated community where Zimmerman lived.
The jailhouse recordings reveal at times a man who sounds bored, adjusting to life behind bars, talking with his wife about his contact lenses and medications, his family and about the stress of the experience.
But one of the more compelling details to emerge from this latest release, amid the many of the last several weeks, are details about what Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Mark O’Mara, knew of the thousands of dollars Zimmerman had raised via a website he’d set up to connect with supporters.
During an April 20 bond hearing, O’Mara told a judge that Zimmerman and his family were broke. Shellie Zimmerman also testified to that effect. Following the hearing, Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester granted a bond of $150,000, and Zimmerman was released days later after providing $15,000, or 10 percent of the bond amount.
Within days of Zimmerman’s release, it was revealed that the couple were sitting on $135,000 in donated funds, of which Oâ€™Mara claimed he was unaware. Zimmerman’s bond was revoked, and during a second hearing a new bond was set for $1 million. O’Mara appealed to supporters and donations poured in, which allowed Zimmerman to raise sufficient funds for his release a second time.
Shellie Zimmerman was subsequently arrested and charged with perjury. She was later released on $1,000 bond.
But little less than a week before Zimmerman’s April 20 bond hearing, during a phone call between Zimmerman and his friend, Scott, the two discuss O’Mara and the transfer of large sums of money between the Zimmermans’ accounts.
“He said he’s going to have me declared indigent,” Zimmerman tells Scott, referring to O’Mara. “I told him I didn’t think that would be possible, because there was one sizable transfer I tried to make. It got stopped. You know, $37.”
Prosecutors have scoured the Zimmermans’ bank records and analyzed their jailhouse phone calls and say Zimmerman used code words when discussing the funds. For example, eight dollars really meant $80,000, according to prosecutors; likewise, $37 meant $37,000.
Zimmerman said that O’Mara had told him the funds didn’t matter. “Right now you’re not working. You’re not providing an income for your family. You’re probably not going to be employable for the rest of your life,” Zimmerman told his friend, recounting O’Mara’s advice.
Scott then asked whether or not the attorney was aware of “the volume” of the donations. Zimmerman said no, but that O’Mara knew about the failed transfer of $37,000, which exceeded the amount allowed for a single transfer by PayPal, the website used to collect the donated funds.
O’Mara has claimed in court that he was unaware of the funds and that as soon as he was made aware of them, he brought the money to the court’s attention. But critics have speculated how much O’Mara actually knew and how involved he may have been in the Zimmermans’ alleged ruse.
“I recall now some conversation of a transfer, but I don’t recall a specific amount,” O’Mara told The Miami Herald. “If it was $10,000 or $100,000 or $30,000, I would have remembered. It’s not the type of thing you would risk your license to practice law over.”
“I would have remembered $37,000,” he told the newspaper. “I can’t imagine not remembering. It puts my credibility on the line.”