SANFORD, Florida (Reuters) – George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer charged in the Florida killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, returned to jail on Sunday after a court revoked his bond and ordered him back into custody.
Zimmerman, who had been free on a $150,000 bond and hiding in an undisclosed location, arrived at the Sanford County jail in a white police mini-van shortly before the 48-hour deadline imposed by Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. on Friday.
The 28-year-old Zimmerman, dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt and accompanied by Seminole County Sheriff’s deputies and his attorney, Mark O’Mara, walked into the jailhouse with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Zimmerman did not respond to questions from media outside.
O’Mara told reporters that Zimmerman was “frustrated” at having to return to jail and that “he has a real concern for his safety any time he has to come out of hiding.”
It was the latest twist in a murder case that has captured global media attention and sparked widespread debate in the United States over guns, self-defense laws and race relations.
Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, is charged with fatally shooting 17-year-old Martin on Feb 26. as the teenager walked through a gated community in Sanford where he was staying with his father.
Police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman, citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law, but six weeks later a special prosecutor charged him with second-degree murder. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty and said he fired in self-defense after Martin broke his nose and bashed his head on a side-walk.
On Friday Judge Lester revoked Zimmerman’s bond, posted in April while he was awaiting trial, after prosecutors said he had withheld one of two valid passports and that his wife did not tell the court about money donated for his legal defense.
Zimmerman returned to Central Florida, arriving late Saturday evening, O’Mara announced earlier on Sunday in an online statement, adding that the defense team had coordinated Zimmerman’s security with the Sanford Police Department.
O’Mara told Reuters earlier that he would request another bond hearing. In a defense team statement on Sunday, O’Mara said he hoped his client’s voluntary surrender “will help demonstrate to the court that he is not a flight risk.”
“Furthermore, the vast majority of the funds in question are in an independently managed trust, and neither Mr. Zimmerman or his attorneys have direct access to the money,” the statement added.
It also noted that Zimmerman waived his right to speedy trial on May 8, meaning that he could face a long wait in jail. “It is anticipated, though not certain, that the case will not be ready for trial until some time into 2013.”
Zimmerman’s whereabouts were unknown during the weeks following his release after spending 11 nights in April in a Sanford jail cell. His lawyer declined to discuss his location or living arrangements, citing death threats and fears about Zimmerman’s security.
Prosecutors alleged in court on Friday that his wife knew about donations he had solicited for his defense on a website and collected through a PayPal account but failed to mention the money at his bond hearing.
“The defendant’s wife lied to this court,” prosecutor Bernardo de la Rionda told the judge.
Zimmerman has received about $200,000 from anonymous donors to fund his defense, even though his defense lawyer had previously described him as penniless.
The motion to revoke Zimmerman’s bond cited transcripts of phone calls he made to his wife from jail. In the calls, which were recorded by the facility, the couple spoke in code about the donated money and Zimmerman instructed his wife to transfer money into her personal account, according to the motion.
“He (Zimmerman) understands the court’s concern now we’ve had a chance to look at it,” O’Mara said on Sunday, though he would not speculate about whether Zimmerman’s wife might be charged with perjury. “I believe she’ll have counsel.”
Zimmerman solicited money for his defense through a website, TheRealGeorgeZimmerman.com, that has since been taken down. It has been replaced by a new online site for contributions to Zimmerman’s defense called gzdefensefund.com.
De La Rionda also told the court that when Zimmerman surrendered his passport to the court at his April 20 bond hearing, he did so knowing that he had a second unexpired passport.
The motion said Zimmerman obtained a passport in 2002. That passport, which expired in May 2012, was the one he turned in to the court during his April bond hearing and his lawyer told the judge it was his only passport.
But prosecutors said Zimmerman in 2004 reported that passport lost or stolen and obtained a new one, which is valid until 2014. Zimmerman also discussed the passport with his wife in one of the recorded calls from jail, the motion said.
He told his wife he thought the passport was in a bag and she replied, “I have one for you in a safety deposit box,” the prosecutors said. “OK, you hold onto that,” Zimmerman allegedly told her.
(Writing by David Adams and Tom Brown; Editing by Paul Simao)