Monday, June 4, 2012

Could George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin Killer, Do 15 Years in Federal Prison for Lying on Passport Application?


Atty. Francis L. Holland

After George Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second degree murder for the killing of Trayvon Martin, and after he surrendered his passport as a condition of his bond, did he commit a separate federal crime punishable by up to fifteen years in prison by lying on a US passport application in order to replace the passport that he had surrendered to the criminal court?  Electronic recordings of his conversations while in prison, the fact that he obtained a second passport after surrendering one, and presumably the recent passport application itself, demonstrate precisely what he did.

During the hearing, prosecutors introduced several recordings of telephone conversations between Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, made while he was in jail.  In one such recording, they can be heard speaking cryptically about a second passport in his possession.  Zimmerman was ordered by the judge to hand over his passport so he couldn’t flee the country, but Zimmerman applied for a second passport after the shooting, saying his first one had been stolen. (Emphasis added.)

Page two of the US Passport application form asks for the "status of most recent passport," whether "lost" or "stolen."  There are reasons for requesting a passport that are unlawful, so the questions requesting to know the motive for the application are legally essential to whether the passport will be issued and whether a crime is committed in requesting it.  If Zimmerman falsely checked a "lost" or "stolen" box, as the Christian Science Monitor reports, when in fact he had surrendered his passport to the criminal court trying him for murder, then he likely committed a separate federal crimeunder 18 U.S.C. § 1542for which he could spend up to fifteen years in federal prison.  

18 U.S.C. § 1542 , US Code Section 1542"False statement in application and use of passport," provides that:
Whoever willfully and knowingly makes any false statement in an application for passport with intent to induce or secure the issuance of a passport under the authority of the United States,either for his own use or the use of another, contrary to the lawsregulating the issuance of passports or the rules prescribed pursuant to such laws; or 
Whoever willfully and knowingly uses or attempts to use, orfurnishes to another for use any passport the issue of which wassecured in any way by reason of any false statement - Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 25 years (if the offense was committed to facilitate an act ofinternational terrorism (as defined in section 2331 of this title)), 20 years (if the offense was committed to facilitate adrug trafficking crime (as defined in section 929(a) of this title)), 10 years (in the case of the first or second such offenseif the offense was not committed to facilitate such an act of international terrorism or a drug trafficking crime), or 15 years (in the case of any other offense), or both.  (Emphasis added.)
According to US v. O'Bryant, a federal criminal case in which a defendant was convicted for a violation of this law, 

Section 1542 proscribes "willfully and knowingly" making a false statement in a passport application. The crime is complete when one makes a statement one knows is untrue to procure a passport. See Browder v. United States, 312 U.S. 335, 337, 61 S.Ct. 599, 601, 85 L.Ed. 862 (1941); United States v. Winn, 577 F.2d 86, 91 (9th Cir.1978). Good or bad motives are irrelevant. Browder, 312 U.S. at 337-38, 61 S.Ct. 599, 601, 85 L.Ed. 862; United States v. Washington, 705 F.2d 489, 493-94 (D.C.Cir.1983).

The purpose of the "lost" or "stolen" questions is to assure that no individual has more than one passport, to prevent the use of aliases and other subterfuge, such as obtaining a substitute passport to flee the country while out on bail.  For whatever reason, Zimmerman apparently engaged in precisely the type of subterfuge which the federal statute was enacted to prevent, and for which violation penalties were doubled in 1996.  See the statuteUS Attorneys Manual, Christian Science Monitor reported facts and discussion below.

Did Zimmerman actually tell the federal government that his passport had been stolen when, in fact, he had surrendered it to a court as part of a criminal proceeding?  If so, in addition to a violation of the terms of his bond, that lying on a US passport application is a federal crime punishable by up to fifteen years in prison. 

The US Attorneys Manual provides further explanation and references concerning this federal crime:
US Attorneys > USAM > Title 9 > Criminal Resource Manual 1944
prev | next | Criminal Resource Manual


18 U.S.C. § 1542—False Statement in Application for Passport and Use of a Passport Fraudulently Obtained

Section 1542 of Title 18 proscribes both false statements made to obtain a passport, and use of any passport so obtained.
The false statement against which this section is most commonly used is the use of a false name in obtaining a passport. United States citizens attempt to obtain passports using false names in order to conceal criminal activity. A problem of proof can arise when the passport applicant has routinely used aliases and now seeks to obtain a passport in one of those aliases. See, e.g.United States v. O'Bryant, 775 F.2d 1528 (11th Cir.1985); United States v. Cox, 593 F.2d 46 (6th Cir.1979); United States v. Wasman, 641 F.2d 326 (5th Cir.1981), aff'd, 464 U.S. 932 (1984).

Browder v. United States, 312 U.S. 335 (1941), is the leading case on use of a passport, the application for which contained a false statement. Browder obtained a passport in his real name, but in the portion of the application asking when his last passport was obtained, he falsely stated, "none." This statement was false because he had previously obtained a passport in a false name. He then used the new passport to enter the United States. The Supreme Court upheld Browder's conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1542 for innocent use of a passport secured by a false statement. See 53 A.L.R.Fed. 507.

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) amended this statute to provide for enhanced penalties if the offense was committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism or a drug trafficking crime.[cited in USAM 9-73.600]

Although there are facts in doubt with regard to how and why George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, the facts recounted in the Christian Science Monitor, based on tape recorded conversations and Zimmerman's signature on a passport application, would seem to leave little doubt but that Zimmerman committed a federal crime while in state custody.  And Zimmerman clearly shows no respect for the rule of law that a legitimate crime watch volunteer would seek to advance and uphold.

Federal prosecutors in Florida should immediately indict George Zimmerman, and his wife if she aided and abetted his crime, for lying on the US Passport Application, seeking the ten or fifteen years in Federal prison that such a conviction could entail, depending on whether this was a first, second or third or more offense.
The above discussion does not constitute legal advice or counsel or the practice of law on behalf of any party or parties, and is provided exclusively for purposes of public debate.


Deborah said...

The second passport was actually obtained in 2004 and expires in 2014. George has had that passport for 8 years. The one he turned in to the judge was expiring in 2012 and canceled when he applied for the new one and he knew that and turned it in anyway without a word to the lawyer or court about the existence of his second passport. He is indeed a pathological liar.

lakshmi ganapathi said...

passport agents in hyderabad passport is one of the document which is very important for international traveling