Zimmerman fate following acquittal uncertain

Will defendant face civil rights charges?
Associated Press
Jul 14, 2013

Following his acquittal on all charges in the fatal shooting death of Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman will spend no time behind bars.

But that's about the only certainty in the former neighborhood watch volunteer's immediate future.

The Department of Justice has announced it will look into the case, which could lead to criminal civil rights charges, and Zimmerman may also face civil lawsuits from Martin's family.

He could also potentially make a lot of money by writing a book or from a lawsuit he filed last year against a major television network for allegedly editing his 911 call to police to make it sound like he was racist.

For the moment, however, veteran publicists say Zimmerman's options are limited.

The case and his trial have become — for some — a symbol of everything that's wrong with the country's justice system, and with race relations in America today.

The six-member jury's not-guilty verdict late Saturday prompted a wave of anger among civil rights leaders and others, and protests have erupted across the country. Image handlers say Zimmerman needs to take that anger, and potential death threats, seriously.

"I have one short piece of advice for him," said Jonathan Bernstein, president of the Southern California-based Bernstein Crisis Management Inc.


Hiding is not an unfamiliar feeling for Zimmerman, whose last known appearance in public was on Feb. 26, 2012, the night of the shooting: He was headed to Target to do his weekly grocery shopping before he encountered Martin.

Zimmerman has been living a hermit's life since then and during the months leading up to his highly publicized trial. And now, despite the acquittal, it is unlikely that he will ever be able to do something as mundane as grocery shopping — at least not unaccompanied — for a very long time.

Security experts and crisis management pros say the former neighborhood watch volunteer must immediately get a security plan in place. This could involve hiring an expensive team of bodyguards or consultants who will assess whether the threats against him are credible.

Richard Davis, the operations director for The Bodyguard Group of Beverly Hills, said that if Zimmerman were to hire his firm, he would have a stable of former Navy SEALS and Special Forces guards looking out for his safety around the clock. They would relocate him to a safe home (probably in a large city where he can blend into a busy community), quietly file court paperwork to change his name and create a "protective bubble."

"No one enters the bubble," said Davis, whose company has provided security for A-list celebrities and politicians. "It moves with you."

Davis described what he thinks is the optimal security plan for someone in Zimmerman's situation: a big team of guards for the initial few weeks following the verdict, a cross-country move, and an armored car. Restaurants would have to be pre-screened, exercise would have to be done in a home gym and a trip to the movies would be out of the question.

"You can't go in that store alone, you can't go to the movies ever, unless you rent out the whole theater for yourself," he said. "A movie theater is a death trap."

All of this isn't cheap. Davis estimates that it would cost $3,000 a day initially to pay for such security. But if it keeps Zimmerman alive, he said, it's a small price to pay.

To be sure, there are less expensive security and bodyguard options. But all will cost money — and Zimmerman, who worked as a mortgage underwriter prior to the shooting, isn't independently wealthy.

At one point following the shooting, Zimmerman had his own website and raised $200,000 for his legal defense. His family and attorneys also have set up separate fundraising websites, but it's unclear how much they have raised.

Zimmerman's attorneys say that their client hasn't worked since the shooting. Of course, people in high-profile cases sometimes win lucrative deals to write books or sell their life stories so they can be made into a movie or television program.

Bernstein said if Zimmerman was his client, he would advise against this right now.

"If he's doing a book deal, he should keep it quiet, and don't come out with a book in a hurry," said Bernstein, adding that he would advise Zimmerman not to speak to the news media in either paid or unpaid appearances.

"The more you talk, the more you are a target," he said. "The court has spoken for him. The best thing he could possibly do is go below the radar."

There's also the possibility of further legal action against Zimmerman — some of which could impact any money that he makes.

Martin's family could sue Zimmerman in civil court, much like Ronald Goldman's family did with OJ Simpson. Any proceeds Zimmerman makes from a book or movie deal could be turned over to the Martins, if a civil jury were to find him guilty.

And then there is the possibility that the Department of Justice could bring a federal hate-crime charge against Zimmerman. While legal experts say this is unlikely, Zimmerman could be forced into paying for more lawyers if it does happen.

Veteran publicist Glen Selig said in the coming weeks and months, Zimmerman should let others speak for him and avoid most, if not all, publicity. By speaking to the news media about the case, Zimmerman risks making the story about him — and not about the larger, more complicated issues of race and justice.

"I would clearly advise him not to become the lightning rod for this issue," Selig said.

Emotions over the case are running high, especially among those who think Zimmerman should have been found guilty, said Scott Sundby, a law professor at the University of Miami.

"The hard thing about the law sometimes is that we can have intuitive responses that an outcome is not fair but that doesn't necessarily mean that the law was not followed," Sundby said.

"The criminal justice system is often an imperfect system of handling wrongs that occurred. Many acts we feel were unjust will go unpunished by the law because of larger issues as to why the system is set up that way."





Someone will wipe that smile off his face. I think maybe he'd better look up Casey Anthony for advice on hiding out after acquittal.


Doubt it. Nobody wiped the smile of Casey's face yet.


No one has wiped the smile off of OJ's face yet either!


Runyan v. State (1877) 57 Ind. 80, 20 Am.Rep. 52, is one of the earliest cases to strongly support and establish in U.S. law an individual's right to initiate self-defense actions up to and including the justifiable use of lethal force against an aggressor.
In Runyan, the court stated "When a person, being without fault, is in a place where he has a right to be, is violently assaulted, he may, without retreating, repel by force, and if, in the reasonable exercise of his right of self defense, his assailant is killed, he is justiciable."


Trayvon was without fault, in a place where he had the right to be, and had every right to be left alone. No surprises here though, blacks have systematically been denied justice for decades.

Tsu Dho Nimh

How do you figure he was without fault? Did he or did he not start the fight the resulted in his death? He did not deserve to die but he clearly made a poor choice when he started beating Mr. Z. Young people need to learn that fighting and violence is not how to react when someone angers you.


We do not know who started the fight. If I were to feel threatened I might react the way Trayvon supposedly acted! GZ was young once. Was he taught that? GZ was the angry one. TM was simply walking in the dark! GZ made the poor choices. He should have remained in his car!


So we don't know who started the fight. Well that would leave room for reasonable doubt, now wouldn't it? We shouldn't convict people if there is reasonable doubt. Did reasonable doubt help you get acquitted of your charges?


So your response to someone following you is to start a confrontation with that person? Bad move. If someone is following you, you call the cops, and run with all your might back to your house, while screaming for help. Scream rape, scream fire, scream anything, but don't attempt to confront the person. That's the worst thing you could do.

Both men made bad choices that night. Both men have paid for those choices in horrible ways.


If you ever want to kill someone, go to Florida. You'll get acquitted and live happily ever after on your book rights.


It was self defense. Have you not been following the trial?


Do you really think you would still be alive if I pounded your head on the concrete as many as 24 times? C'mon dude?


Zimmer is free to go lil dog.


Self defense. Trial over. :)


Seems like a lot of black folk on here that still won't accept the truth...


Seems to me like a lot of whites on here don't believe in justice for black people, especially black men!!

Darwin's choice

Where is the justice/outrage/jesse and al sharpton show for this little girl Deertracker?


Funny because a black man killed an unarmed MENTALLY DISABLED hispanic male walking his dog last year and he wasn't even arrested nor going to trial.

go play your hypocrite race card somewhere else.

Trial is over.



I fail to see the humor in that!

sandtown born a...

No humor just fact, dispute the facts, lets hear your racist spin on this one


Why do I need to have any kind of spin? It is not my responsibility to administer justice. That is LE's job. Ask them whatever it is you want answered!

sandtown born a...

Show your support for a mentally challenged unarmed man being shot dead with no justice for his family. OH YEAH the dead person isn't BLACK so it don't fit your racist views. No need for justice huh


It is always about race with you! Why is that? This entire case was about equal justice not race. Of course, there is a racial undertone but it was not created by me. You have NO clue about me or my views. Don't be upset with me because you are black. I had NOTHING to do with that!

sandtown born a...

I never brought race into this I am just calling it like I see it.


So am I!

Tsu Dho Nimh

In all fairness, you and Big Dog are the two posters bringing up the fact that Trayvon Martin was black. Both of you have said that black males are targets. I am not seeing race being brought up by others except to show that there are many examples of other races being killed.


I do not remember saying black men are targets but they do not get a fair shake from LE! There is no way you can't see race! Keep it real! Name a race or anyone shot while walking in the rain minding their own business! Don't forget about the black part.


Did you forget about the child in a stroller shot point blank by a teen this past spring. Think it was in Georgia. The child wasn't black but the shooter was. Don't you think a mother should feel safe to walk with her child during the day? I think the child was minding his own business.

The Big Dog's back

Of course you wouldn't see racism brought up on Fox news.


Sounds like you watch a lot of Fox news since you know so much about it. Personally, it's not my news source of choice.