Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

George Zimmerman: President Obama Amped Up Racial Tension Against Me

By Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

ORLANDO, Fla. — In his first public comments since the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not prosecute him for violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights, George Zimmerman says he was victimized by President Barack Obama.

The president should never have allowed the DOJ investigation and is guilty of ramping up racial tension when he said, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman is the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who killed Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, in Sanford on Feb. 26, 2012, setting off civil rights demonstrations across the country and beyond.

A Seminole County jury acquitted Zimmerman of manslaughter in 2013.

Zimmerman went into hiding after the shooting and still tightly guards his privacy.

He has rejected most media request for an interview but on March 8 video-recorded an interview with his Tampa divorce lawyer, Howard Iken, of Ayo and Iken PLC.

In it, he faulted the media for portraying him as a racist and the criminal justice system for bringing him to trial but saved his harshest criticism for Obama, whom he accused of trying to prosecute “an innocent American.”

“For him to make incendiary comments as he did and direct the Department of Justice to pursue a baseless prosecution, he by far overstretched, overreached,” Zimmerman said.

The president, who he referred to as “Barack Hussein Obama,” should have told the public, ” ‘Let’s not rush to judgment,’ ” Zimmerman said.

On Feb. 24, the Department of Justice announced that it would file no charges against Zimmerman and was closing its 3-year-old investigation.

According to Iken, federal authorities have not returned to Zimmerman the Kel-Tec 9mm semiautomatic pistol that he used to kill Martin.

Iken interviewed Zimmerman in Orlando.

“Do you have a clean conscience at this point?” the lawyer asked about the shooting.

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you wish (it) … had turned out differently?”

“I believe that the American judicial system failed in the sense that I should not even (have) gone to trial, but I do believe that the jury process succeeded,” Zimmerman said.

He said he’s convinced there’s nothing he could have done differently that would have allowed both he and Martin to survive their confrontation that night.

“In all fairness, you cannot as a human feel guilty for living, for surviving,” he said.

“Are you the same person right now that you were five years ago?” Iken asked.

“Absolutely not,” Zimmerman said. “I have to have my guard up. … I still believe that people are truly good at heart, as Anne Frank has said, and I will put myself in any position to help another human in any way I can.”

Photo: President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, July 19, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Police Release Arrest Report On Latest George Zimmerman Incident

By Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

ORLANDO, Fla. — George Zimmerman threw a wine bottle at a woman who had just dumped him and threw her phone to the ground in a dispute that led to his arrest Friday night, according to a police report.

He was jailed Friday on an aggravated assault charge but is free on $5,000 bond.

Lake Mary police on Monday released more details about what led to the arrest.

Zimmerman told police that he did nothing wrong, according to an incident report, and was trying to keep the woman, whose name has not been released, from coming inside his home.

Police found the broken bottle in the driveway.

Zimmerman told them that she threw it at his garage because he refused to let her inside. The phone, he said, was broken long before by her 5-year-old son.

The couple had lived together two to three months, according to the report. She told police they had met at work eight or nine months ago, that she needed a place to live and that he had let her move in.

Police got involved about 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 5, according to department paperwork, when an officer heard breaking glass then observed the girlfriend drive away from Zimmerman’s house without turning on her headlights.

When they pulled her over, she was extremely upset, according to the report, and her backseat was full of her clothes and other household belongings.

Zimmerman had thrown a wine bottle at her, she said, but had missed, and had broken her cellphone by throwing it to the ground, the report said.

The woman said they had argued over several things. She wanted to break up, she said, and he wanted her to return a painting.

Zimmerman, she told police, is a “psychopath,” according to an incident report.

There was a five-day gap between the incident and Zimmerman’s arrest, according to the police department, because officers tried repeatedly to reach Zimmerman by phone and at his house but could not.

That ended Friday night, when they found him at home. Even then he did not surrender for nearly two hours, keeping officers locked out. They knocked several times, phoned him several times and talked to his lawyer by phone before Zimmerman agreed to open his door, according to an incident report.

The woman told police the night of the incident that she did not want to prosecute, but officers arrested him anyway, in part, because “there is a possibility of further acts of violence,” wrote Sgt. Steven Towler.

At Zimmerman’s initial court appearance Saturday, Circuit Judge John Galluzzo banned him from possessing guns and ordered him to turn over any he owned to a family member or friend.

Zimmerman, 31, is the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who was acquitted of second-degree murder in 2013 after shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old whom he spotted walking through his Sanford apartment complex.

This is the third time since then that Zimmerman has been involved in a domestic violence incident that resulted in police intervention.

In 2013, he was accused of pointing a shotgun at his then-girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, but she later recanted, and prosecutors dropped the charge.

A few months earlier, Lake Mary police briefly handcuffed him after his estranged wife, Shellie Zimmerman, accused him of threatening her and her father with a gun.

Lake Mary police spokeswoman Officer Bianca Gillett earlier Monday said that her agency hoped to release video of Zimmerman being transported to the Seminole County jail and, perhaps, body-cam video taken by officers involved in the investigation.

Those items, however, were not released.

AFP Photo

Law Firm To Florida Court Clerks: Issuing Gay-Marriage Licenses Risks Arrest

By Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Gay-rights activists were ecstatic: Come Jan. 6, they thought, Florida same-sex couples would be lining up at courthouses across the state to get married.

But that is not what the people who issue marriage licenses in Florida — county clerks of court — say.

They are trying to determine whether a Tallahassee law firm is right when it says that every Florida clerk, except Washington County’s, would be committing a crime if he or she issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The firm of Greenberg Traurig, legal counsel to the Florida Association of Court Clerks and Comptrollers, this week updated a memo it sent July 1 that says the same thing: If you issue a marriage license to two people of the same sex, you’ve committed a first-degree misdemeanor and could spend a year in the county jail.

In a statement Tuesday, Executive Director Kenneth A. Kent said, “At this time of uncertainty, the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers have been advised by the association to follow the advice of our legal counsel and not issue same-sex marriage licenses until a binding order is issued by a court of proper jurisdiction.”

“I think they’re dead wrong,” said Elizabeth White, one of the Jacksonville lawyers representing Stephen Schlairet and Ozzie Russ, a same-sex Washington County couple who, along with several others, convinced U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee to overturn Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage in August.

He imposed a stay, however, to give the state time to appeal. Two weeks ago, when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the state’s request to extend the stay beyond Jan. 5, gay-rights activists began planning celebrations for what many believe will be a flood of same-sex-marriage applications Jan. 6.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to extend the stay. Daniel Tilley, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who represents several gay and lesbian couples in that case, pointed out that since October, the Supreme Court has rejected every similar appeal.

And even though judges in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties have independently found Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, clerks in those counties, too, would be subject to arrest, according to Greenberg Traurig, should they issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples Jan. 6.

That’s because they were not specifically named in the North Florida case decided by Judge Hinkle.

Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, called the prospect of clerks being arrested ludicrous.

“Are local officials seriously preparing to arrest and criminally charge county clerks for enforcing a federal judge’s order? That’s preposterous.”

“When a federal judge declares a law unconstitutional, all public officials should cease enforcing that law. Period,” he said in a written statement.

In Central Florida, some people have already begun preparing for same-sex marriages on Jan. 6.

The Osceola County Commission voted Monday to open the clerk’s office in Kissimmee from 12:01 a.m. to 2 a.m. that day to allow same-sex couples to get licenses.

But Osceola Clerk Armando Ramirez said Tuesday he would follow Greenberg Traurig’s advice and not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until there’s another court ruling.

“According to the advisory, I would be subject to criminal penalties if I issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple,” he said.

Orange County Clerk Tiffany Moore Russell did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Seminole County Clerk Maryanne Morse said last week that because she was not specifically named in the Tallahassee federal suit, she believes the ruling does not apply to her.

Lake County Clerk Neil Kelly said he is not sure what to do but is relying on legal advice from Greenberg Traurig.

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton’s office did not say whether he would prosecute Moore Russell, Ramirez or any of their employees should they issue the licenses.

In Seminole-Brevard, State Attorney Phil Archer hinted that he would prosecute no one. In a prepared statement, he said the issue “would be best addressed in civil court.”

Michael P. Allen, an associate dean at the Stetson University College of Law, said the Greenberg Traurig firm is technically right: Hinkle’s order applies only to the defendants named in the suit: Florida’s surgeon general, who records an individual’s marital status on death certificates; Florida’s secretary of the Department of Management Services, who administers state-employee retirement benefits; and the clerk of the Panhandle’s Washington County, the one who would not give Schlairet and Russ a marriage license.

But Allen said it’s also bad public policy. Clerks who follow it, he said, will likely be sued for violating the constitutional rights of any same-sex couple applying for a marriage license Jan. 6 or thereafter and is denied.

“It is just going to create a tremendous amount of litigation, lawsuit after lawsuit,” Allen said.

White, the Jacksonville lawyer involved in the Tallahassee federal suit, said her firm would move aggressively against clerks who do not issue marriage licenses.

“On Jan. 6 if (same-sex) couples are denied marriage licenses, we will be knocking on courthouse doors,” she said.

In most other places where a ban on gay marriage has been ruled unconstitutional, state and local officials have chosen not to dig in and engage in a county-by-county fight, Allen said.

“Most states have not done that, frankly, because it seems pretty mean-spirited,” he said.

In 35 states, same-sex couples now have the right to marry.

In 2008, 62 percent of Florida voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. But since July 17, four state trial judges — all in South Florida — have declared it unconstitutional. Those are in addition to the Tallahassee federal case that created the looming Jan. 5 deadline.

Most of those state court rulings, though, have been stayed while Bondi pursues appeals.
___
(Staff writer Steven Lemongello contributed to this report.)

Photo: Kevin Goebel via Flickr

Florida Supreme Court Agrees To Decide State’s Gay Marriage Ban

By Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel

In a ground-breaking move, the Florida Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to take on the issue of gay marriage.

The justices announced that they will decide whether the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

The case involves two Tampa women – Mariama Shaw and Keiba Shaw — who want a divorce. A judge in Hillsborough County had rejected their request, saying their marriage in Massachusetts is not valid in Florida.

They then appealed. Ten judges on the Second District Court of Appeal agreed not to decide the case, saying it was an issue of such importance, it should go directly to the Florida Supreme Court.

“Resolution of the constitutional questions will no doubt impact far more individuals than the two involved here,” the Second District Court wrote. “And there can be little doubt that until the constitutional questions are finally resolved by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, there will be a great impact on the proper administration of justice in Florida.”

Same-sex couples have won limited back-to-back-to-back victories in state courts in four South Florida counties in the past few weeks.

In each, a judge has struck down Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, but none of those rulings applies statewide.

Since those victories started rolling in, gay rights activists have pressed to get a case in front of the Florida Supreme Court, hoping to get a decision that would apply to state courts in all of Florida’s 67 counties.

That happened Wednesday.

Last week, a judge in the federal court system, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee, also found Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. His ruling would apply to every Florida county, but he imposed a stay, prohibiting its implementation until other appeal courts have weighed in.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

George Zimmerman Volunteered As Security Guard At Florida Gun Store

By Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. — For a time, George Zimmerman helped a friend who owns a DeLand gun store by acting as a volunteer security guard, an employee reported Tuesday.

Orlando-area news organizations Tuesday morning reported that Zimmerman was working at Pompano Pat’s, a DeLand gun and motorcycle shop.

If true, that would have been his first job in two years, since he killed Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year-old who was walking through Zimmerman’s Sanford neighborhood in 2012.

Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, claimed self-defense and was acquitted of second-degree murder, but the homicide and his acquittal resulted in protest marches.

Sam Porter, an employee at Pompano Pat’s, said Tuesday that Zimmerman is not an employee.

“George has a good heart,” Porter said. “We were broken into about two and a half weeks ago and had some guns stolen, so I think he took it upon himself to try to help the owner.”

After hours, Zimmerman watched over the store from his pickup, Porter said.

A police officer on routine patrol recently spotted him, Porter said, and Zimmerman said he was acting as a security guard.

AFP Photo

Judge Throws Out George Zimmerman’s Libel Suit Against NBC

By Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Sanford, Florida, judge on Monday put an end to George Zimmerman’s libel suit against NBC Universal.

Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson ruled that the former neighborhood watch volunteer is entitled to no money from the media giant.

She issued a summary judgment in the network’s favor, meaning that unless an appeals court reverses her, the case is now dead.

Zimmerman had filed suit two years ago, accusing NBC of falsely portraying him as a racist in a series of broadcasts shortly after he killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, in Sanford.

Editors shortened audio from a 911 call Zimmerman made to a police dispatcher the night of the shooting, making it sound as if Zimmerman volunteered that Trayvon was black and that he racially profiled the Miami Gardens teenager.

Those edited clips aired four times in March 2012.

In addition, Zimmerman accused the news organization of defaming him in a separate broadcast by falsely reporting that he used a racial epithet in the same call.

The network fired two employees who were involved in the edits and made a public apology.

At a hearing June 19, NBC attorney Lee Levine asked the judge to end the suit with a judgment in the network’s favor.

Zimmerman is a public figure, Levine said, and could not prove that he was the victim of “actual malice,” meaning that NBC employees either knew what they reported was false or had serious misgivings about it.

In her ruling, issued shortly before 9 a.m. Monday, Nelson wrote that that’s where Zimmerman’s suit fell apart.

“There exists absolutely no clear and convincing evidence that defendants knew that the information published was false at the time it was published, or recklessly disregarded the truth or falsity of those statements,” she wrote.

Zimmerman also alleged that the network intentionally inflicted emotional distress. Nelson shot down that claim, too.

In her 15-page order, she pointed out that time and again in March 2012 — the period during which Zimmerman claims NBC defamed him — the network quoted family members and friends who emphasized that Zimmerman was not a racist.

She also picked up on a tiny detail from the 911 call: that midway through the conversation, Zimmerman pointed out Martin’s race a second time, and that time it was without prompting.

“He’s got his hand in his waistband. And he’s a black male,” Zimmerman said.

The edits, the judge wrote, were not material changes.

As for the racial epithet, the judge wrote that the FBI did an analysis of the recording and concluded it was impossible to make out what Zimmerman had said. Given that, she wrote, it would be impossible for him to prove that NBC got that fact wrong.

In a one-sentence prepared statement, NBC News said it “is gratified by the court’s dismissal of this lawsuit, which we have always believed to be without merit.”

Zimmerman’s attorney, James Beasley Jr. of Philadelphia, was not available for comment Monday.

He had argued that it would be premature to throw out the suit, given that he had not yet begun to collect evidence.

He intended to take sworn statements from or check the network’s communications with several people, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist who led rallies, calling for Zimmerman’s arrest, and Special Prosecutor Angela Corey.

Zimmerman told police he acted in self-defense. He was acquitted of second-degree murder last year.

Photo via AFP

Lawsuit From Zimmerman’s Parents Against Roseanne Goes To State Court

By Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. — A federal judge has bad news for George Zimmerman’s parents, who are suing comedienne Roseanne Barr, accusing her of doing damage by posting their address on Twitter.

Robert Zimmerman Sr. and his wife, Gladys Zimmerman, had offered to settle their suit for $750,000, records show.

But in an order signed Thursday, U.S. Magistrate David Baker says the money the Zimmermans stand to recover — if they recover any — is not even a fraction of that, not “anything close to $75,000.”

That’s the minimum amount required for a federal civil suit. As a consequence, Baker kicked the case back to state circuit court in Sanford, where the Zimmermans first filed it in March.

The Zimmermans accuse Barr of intentionally inflicting emotional distress and invading their privacy when she posted their address on Twitter on March 29, 2012. That was a month after their son, George, killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, in Sanford, Fla., but two weeks before he was arrested.

George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder last year.

Barr contends she meant for the tweet to go to just one person and when she discovered it went to everyone following her, she took it down seconds later.

Her lawyers also contend that she shouldn’t have to pay damages because their address was easily available to anyone with access to a phone book or the Seminole County Property Appraiser’s website.

The Zimmermans allege they’ve suffered $600,000 worth of emotional distress. The tweet forced them to move out and go into hiding, they allege.

Baker focused on the Zimmermans’ alleged “hard expenses.” They reported $6,900 in hotel bills, $22,800 in rent, and $7,700 in additional living expenses. Those things, Baker wrote, total $37,400, far below the $75,000 federal court minimum. In state circuit court, where the suit goes next, the minimum claim is $15,000.

AFP Photo

Interested in national news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Zimmerman Moves To End Court Battles With Prosecutors

By Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel

SANFORD, Fla. – Former Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman says he’s done fighting in court with Special Prosecutor Angela Corey.

In paperwork filed at the Seminole County criminal courthouse, Zimmerman says he is giving up his promised fight to make the state pay his legal bills.

He also wants to put an end to his lawyers’ fight with prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda, whom they had asked a judge to punish, alleging unethical behavior, including hiding evidence.

If Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson agrees, that would clear the way for Zimmerman to move forward with his defamation suit against NBCUniversal. A hearing in that case is scheduled Friday.

Zimmerman alleges that NBC falsely portrayed him as a racist.

The suit was filed a year ago but was placed on hold until his criminal case was concluded.

A Seminole County, Fla., jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder in July, but the case has remained open because of the sanctions issue.

Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, February 26, 2012, in Sanford.

In May, in the leadup to Zimmerman’s criminal trial, the judge spent several hours listening to argument and evidence that de la Rionda had hidden from defense attorneys photos and text messages stored on Trayvon’s cell phone that suggested the Miami Gardens teenager was a fighter and used marijuana.

Defense attorneys Mark O’Mara and Don West also alleged that de la Rionda hid for months information that the state’s key witness, a teenage girl who was on the phone with Trayvon just before he was shot, had lied under oath.

The judge postponed the continuation of that hearing until after the trial, and it has never resumed.

In an odd move, Corey’s office doesn’t want the judge to grant Zimmerman’s new request — that she forget about the sanctions. It wants to keep fighting and be declared the winner. A few days after Zimmerman filed his request, Assistant State Attorney Rich Mantei filed paperwork, asking the judge to rule in Corey’s favor.

He even offered to resume the hearing “to make a complete record and establish the state committed no discovery violations …”

In another legal development involving Zimmerman, a judge has set aside a default entered in favor of his wife, Shellie, in their ongoing divorce.

That means the two sides are back to equal footing as they fight to divide up property but mostly the overwhelming debt they face because of George Zimmerman’s legal bills.

AFP Photo

Blind Florida Shooter Cleared Of Murder In ‘Stand Your Ground’ Slaying Wants Firearm Back

By Rene Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Florida — John Wayne Rogers is a blind man who two years ago shot dead an overnight guest in his living room.

He was cleared of murder in that case, and Thursday in a Sanford, Fla., courtroom, he’ll ask Circuit Judge John Galluzzo to return his .308-caliber assault rifle, the one used in the homicide.

Rogers also will ask the judge to return a 10 mm Glock pistol, which Seminole County deputies seized the day of the fatal shooting, March 27, 2012.

“First of all, it’s my constitutional right to bear arms,” Rogers said Tuesday. “And second of all, it’s my protection for my house. I’m legally blind — not totally blind. I’m not running around the woods hunting or being paramilitary. … I’m not even carrying a concealed weapons permit. The firearms are for here, my own house for my own protection.”

Prosecutors will not fight to keep the guns away from him.

“It is probably going to be a very short hearing,” said Assistant State Attorney David Whateley. “I have no legal reason to ask the court to deny the motion.”

Rogers, 40, lives in a corrugated metal building off a dirt road in Geneva, a rural part of eastern Seminole County. That’s where he killed James T. DeWitt, 34, during a fight.

Rogers was arrested the day of the shooting, jailed for two years and went on trial in January on a charge of first-degree murder. A few hours before the jury was to begin deliberations, Galluzzo granted Rogers’ “stand your ground” motion, ruling that Rogers killed DeWitt in self-defense.

DeWitt had been drinking all day, Rogers said, had passed out and when he regained consciousness “he freaks out.”

DeWitt got on top of him and pummeled him, but Rogers managed to get away, he said, went into a back room, got his rifle and ordered DeWitt to leave.

“He came running at me, telling me he was going to kill me,” Rogers said, “then it happened.”

He shot DeWitt from a distance of about 18 inches, according to expert testimony.

“I did CPR. I tried to stop the bleeding,” Rogers said, but it did no good.

DeWitt had been living in a tent in the woods, he said. Rogers let him stay overnight as a gesture of kindness.

“I tried to help … and it turned into a disaster,” Rogers said. “I feel horrible. I feel horrible for his parents. I feel horrible for his kids.”

Rogers acquired the guns before he was blinded in an industrial accident in 2001, he said. He was working at an Orange County construction site, checking a fire-suppression system when it had a blowout, and hundreds of gallons of water under high pressure blasted him in the face.

“I can see up close,” he said, and in low light.

He does not drive but mows his yard with a riding mower, he said. He lives alone and walks with a home-made cane — not a conventional white one.

Rogers has two prior arrests. In 2010, he used a handgun to fire 15 rounds at his cousin, Michael Rogers, with whom he’d gotten into a fight following a night of drinking, according to an arrest report.

Michael Rogers suffered scrapes but no gunshot wounds. John Rogers was arrested on an aggravated assault charge but wound up pleading no contest to a lesser charge — unlawfully displaying a firearm — and was placed on probation.

That was revoked about a year later when he was arrested for pushing and punching a woman, an act that sent him to jail for 71 days, according to court records.

John Rogers is adamant about getting his guns back.

“This is my domain. I have a right to protect myself,” he said.

Photo: Rob Bixby via Flickr.com