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.

"Hide."

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."

 

 

Comments

grumpy

-Some folks aren't happy with the rule of law. They want revenge, which is against the law. But then I guess they have no respect for following the laws set down by their elected representatives.

JudgeMeNot

Zimmer is free to go deerwacker.

deertracker

It is obvious you have no problem with the killing of young black men. Zimmerman is not as free as you think!

Tsu Dho Nimh

This is what I am referring to, Deertracker. You are focusing on race.

deertracker

I was not responding to your comment!

whazup

Don't like your inconsistencies pointed out?

margaritaville88

LIKE

Pterocarya frax...

OJ was found not guilty too. Look how well it turned out for him. I doubt Zimmerman has seen the last of his court time.

grumpy

It looks like the FBI has hobbled the DOJ if they try to make a case for a civil rights violation

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/...

huronguy

Way to go George! Nice easy win that was. I'd hide gz out anytime he just needs to find a small Conservative town where the people will stand by him. Whites better wake up and realize we are losing liberties , rights and freedoms and the more we give into these folks the faster it will be when we're eventually slaves. They cry equality but will never be happy or never enough. Where was the big time media when that girl and her two children were murdered by a black that was released after murdering a previous white woman blacks weren't crying about that injustice. Blacks have the stop snitching policy that stop their own from receiving justice but want justice if it involves another race killing a black. It's ok to call whites cracker but we can't say ni$$er it goes on and on

eriemom

Seriously? I won't even mark this as inappropriate.

Get over yourself.

margaritaville88

huronguy..Right on !! Trial, evidence, jury, and JUSTICE !! Why do some people not get the facts! Prejudice sure is backwards these days. Leave this guy alone. The law is the law, but some do not like the law apparently. Those people always want to blame someone else. Wake up AMERICA !!!!!!!

sandtown born a...

Racists come in all shapes sizes and colors yes they even come in black. sounds like all you have to do is look in the mirror to see what a racist looks like

sandtown born a...

From Huron real surprise there NOT REALLY

jmac08

well said... also in florida we have a law that is a shoot to kill... and if your life is in danger you may take a life and as soon as trayvon started bashing his head in concrete... he was lawfully aloud to shoot him... and if its your life or theirs what you gonna do .. esp. when the teen is searching for the gun moving his hand around when he was on top of zimmerman.... not to mention this kid has priors in fighting.... ya george is big but hes fat not a fighter and trayvon was just that.. so tell me who had advantage in this fight. and clarification... zimmerman is spanish not white. so blacks and whites have nothing to do with this case maybe black and spanish but not black and white.

Eph 2 8-10

Zimmerman is NOT Spanish. His mother is from Peru. They do speak Espanol in Peru, however.

jmac08

he is hispanic..... damn ohioians are so dumb!!! there are more spanish than just mexican and peru is spanish....

rezzy

Wow!!! Are you kidding me? Doesn't matter, this case won't get any play from the department of justice. They're just trying to please the NCAAAP or whatever their name happens to be.

margaritaville88

Amen..

reporter54

It happens to be NAACP National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

sandtown born a...

Where they trying to advance too? Above and beyond everyone else. They spread hate and racism like the white racists.

deertracker

You are so full of it!

sandtown born a...

A unbiased non racially motivated view your right I am full of that. It's called reality why don't you try tracking some of that

deertracker

Reality is a young black man is dead just for walking in the rain. He was being followed and probably had no idea why because he was doing no wrong. What about that don't you get? The kid had every right to be there and protect himself. It's over! One day you will find out that your white half DOES NOT COUNT! My condolences when that day arrives!

sandtown born a...

So glad you were there to fill us in on the facts, speculation is all I read. I could care less about which one of my sides count, I have seen racism from both sides this is exactly why I stand here saying screw you racists from either side.

deertracker

What about the post is not factual? It's not surprising neither blacks or whites want to claim you!

sandtown born a...

I need no one to claim me I'm fine just being me. Try it without the hate you will find life's better that way. Free from all the hatred,I was born into a racist family and chose to break that chain, you just keep adding links that's what's needed

deertracker

How did you break it? You were born into a racist world. Racism is a learned behavior. Seems like all you did was add another link!

sandtown born a...

Racist view, I teach my kids right from wrong minus the racist hate

Tsu Dho Nimh

I would say a young man is dead just for walking in the rain. Would you please clarify what he was protecting himself from? Did Mr. Zimmerman strike or push him? Did Mr. Zimmerman throw an object at him causing bodily harm? It sounds like Trayvon did not like being followed which does not equate to protecting himself. It is a shame that it happened and my heart breaks for his family.

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