When the State of Florida decided to charge George Zimmerman with second degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, the judge in the case showed a willingness to treat George Zimmerman quite mercifully, by setting a low bail that would allow Zimmerman to be free while the court case proceeded. It was my belief that by allowing Zimmerman to be free pending trial, the court signaled that additional holdings favorable to Zimmerman would be forthcoming, including in the judge's eventual decision whether the "Stand Your Ground" law prevented Zimmerman from being tried at all in the Trayvon Martin case.
The judge, by allowing bail at all, indicated that he did not perceive Zimmerman to be a strong threat to the public or a significant flight risk. It was a literal "judgment decision" that the court decided in Zimmerman's favor.
I disagreed with that decision. In my opinion, a man who would ignore police and follow a man in the dark once, and believe he was doing the right thing, might do the same thing again while out on bail, before the court could decide whether he had acted within the law when he killed another man under those same circumstances.
Zimmerman, however, abused the Judge's leniency by lying to the judge concerning the resources Zimmerman had available to post bond. On a motion by George Zimmerman's defense team, the judge in the case allowed members of George Zimmerman's family to testify by telephone in favor of a bail that the family would be more able to pay. According to the Orlando Sentinel,
At a bond hearing April 20, Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, had testified under oath that the couple didn't have any savings. In reality, they had more than $135,000, with more flooding in from supporters who were making contributions via a website Zimmerman set up after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford Feb. 26.Zimmerman's honesty and his judgment are at the heart of the substance of the case involving his shooting of Trayvon Martin. By clearly lying to the judge in a way that is demonstrable, Zimmerman angered the judge, won the judge's personal animosity, and cast doubt on his own honesty in a way that will linger throughout the proceedings, including the stage in which the judge decides whether the "Stand Your Ground" law prevents the case from reaching a jury at all.
Although a "neighborhood watch volunteer" should collaborate with officials in the criminal justice system, including judges, and help police to enforce the rule of law, Zimmerman has showed contempt for the criminal in yet another way, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
At Zimmerman's first bond hearing, he was ordered to surrender his passport, which he did. Yet, according to electronic recordings of Zimmerman's telephone conversations with his wife while he was in custody, he subsequently applied for second, in clear defiance of the court's orders in this respect, says CSM:
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.)Lying on a passport application is a federal crime (see case note 9). 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 anapplication for passport with intent to induce or secure theissuance 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 prescribedpursuant 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 25years (if the offense was committed to facilitate an act ofinternational terrorism (as defined in section 2331 of thistitle)), 20 years (if the offense was committed to facilitate adrug trafficking crime (as defined in section 929(a) of thistitle)), 10 years (in the case of the first or second such offense,if the offense was not committed to facilitate such an act ofinternational terrorism or a drug trafficking crime), or 15 years(in the case of any other offense), or both.The US Attorneys Manual provides further explanation and references concerning this federal crime:
US Attorneys > USAM > Title 9 > Criminal Resource Manual 1944
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Zimmerman was ordered not to have a passport, but he committed a federal crime, lying to State Department authorities, telling them that his passport had been stolen, so that he could obtain another one. When Zimmerman lies to the court about over a hundred thousand dollars in the bank, and then goes behind the court's back and lies to the federal Government to obtain an illicit passport, showing contempt for law in both instances, who can believe that he killed Trayvon Martin out of respect for and defense of legality?
Lawyers know they can well be jailed, disbarred and lose all credibility with a judge if they are caught knowingly telling falsehoods or intentionally misleading a judge with regard to any fact material to a case, to proceedings or to any matter whatsoever. A murder or rape is a crime against society, but lying to a judge is still worse, particularly as a legal strategy, because it is an offense against the intelligence and honor of that particular judge who will make the procedural, evidentiary and factual decisions on which the results in cases before that judge will subsequently depend.
In fact, Zimmerman did not even need the benefit of the lie he told the judge in his case, because his Paypal account already contained the monies needed to post a higher bail if the judge ordered it. The justice system hasn't yet determined whether Zimmerman is a murderer (who committed an unlawful killing), but the judge has determined categorically that Zimmerman and some members of his family are deliberate liars, and that will have continuing consequences for Zimmerman's legal situation.
Lying to a judge is "biting the hand that feeds you." Zimmerman is guilty of having bitten the hand that freed him.