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."





So you wouldn't have put yourself in that situation even though you carry a weapon while walking at night? Which is it? If you bang anyone's head against the pavement at least two dozen times, as claimed by GZ, that person would be too dead to shoot anyone!


I wouldn't confront some stranger. I carry when out walking at night. I wouldn't be banging some stranger's head, or anyone's head, since I avoid confrontations. The people who do make confrontations should know that starting fights are against the law. They will be spending time in court and if found guilty either pay fines, get probation, go to jail, or some combo of tose things. They might even get shot if they jump the wrong person. But then some people feel the need to make confrontations and roll the dice. It is a STUPID thing to do.

The Big Dog's back

If he banged zim's head on the concrete as many times as you righties claim he would be dead.


I have not seen where I claimed how many times his head was slammed. Nor does it matter what anyone says now. The only thing that mattered was what was sworn to in court. The only peoples opinion that mattered was the jury's opinion. They already made that. So all your whining about it is just white noise. But it is fun to point such things out to you.

sandtown born a...

More important what would you tell your child to do if they are followed?? OH YEAH you only possess a one sided racist view


When my son was a high school athlete, not overweight/under 140 lbs, and the stranger was a short, squat, overweight older guy, I told him to run. Either home or back to the store. I sure as heck wouldn't have told him to attack the stranger and ground and pound him. My son also took karate since he was 7 and was good at it. But you don't use it if you can avoid confrontations. Starting fights rarely is the smart thing to do. But then the law says that starting fights is breaking the law. I would rather not go to court or jail for starting fights. You may have different preferences and like to go to court and jail.


My preference is to protect my self, not run like a scared little bug


That's the underlying problem with our youth and violence today. They are not being taught that a real man avoids confrontation and will walk away from it whenever possible. They are too worried about their pride and the flack that they might get from others for not standing up for themselves. It is a shame that this young man didn't walk away. A scared little bug would still be alive instead of 6 feet in the ground.


I always taught my kids self preservation! I did not teach them to act like a wuss!


You prefer to roll the dice and hope when you attack someone they don't have the ability to hurt or kill you. How very enlightened of you. I hope your kids disregard your teachings.

Tsu Dho Nimh

I hope so, too, because the person whom they attack may have been taught self preservation.


Self preservation does not mean attack!


So why did the 17 year old attack the man?

sandtown born a...

2 in the same self preservation/ wuss I choose to be a live wuss than a dead thug


Well you would just be DEAD!

sandtown born a...

Travon wasn't gonna be a so called wuss either it worked out so well for him.

The Big Dog's back

Yes zim was a wuss. Letting a 17 year old take him down. Sissy.


Exactly! Never underestimate your opponent! With or without a gun!


So it is your position that it is better to break the law, than to do the smart thing. How many times have you started fights? How many times have you been Arrested for starting fights? You are making yourself sound like an e-thug sitting in his mom's basement telling the world through his computer how tough he is. Sad to see people doing this. But it doesn't surprise me that you and your BFF are doing so.


Since you asked, I have never started a fight. I have only been arrested once and acquitted once. I'm really am a laid back no drama kind of guy unless you insist on something else! However, I truly believe and exercise my 1st Amendment rights!

The Big Dog's back

Nobody knows except Trayvon and zim who started the fight. Facts not in evidence pooh.


Sounds like you are making the case for reasonable doubt for the defense. I thought you claimed that Martin was attacked by Zimmerman? Or are you now claiming reasonable doubt?


Sure sounds like reasonable doubt. The jury made their decision on the evidence provided and followed the laws.

sandtown born a...

Yes that 17 yr old THUG learned how to deal in society huh. His SISSY self took out the thug didn't he? No rules when someone is attacking you


Walking away doesn't make one a wuss. It takes more courage to walk away.

The Big Dog's back

So zim doesn't have courage either. Remember, zim was the adult in this situation.


I have not said that Zimmerman should have followed Martin. I have repeatedly said that following someone is not against the law. The law was broken when the fight broke out. The law allowed Zimmerman to use whatever force necessary to stop the threat and apparently the jury believes that Trayvon started the fight.



I have stated many times that I chose not to have kids. Therefore, your scenario is a moot point. Also, I'm not in an area which is populated by blacks...so there shoots your theory down. I don't give a damn what color they are , they threaten me, I defend myself.

Or do you condone men attacking women and children?

As I recall, you defended the guy who stabbed his 3 month old baby cousin to death, did you not?

Is that a pattern with you?

You sound a bit paranoid to me.


Your memory is failing you badly. I did not "defend" the guy I merely suggested it may have been some type of mental breakdown which it was. I don't have a scenario but I do have kids. If you are not in an area where you come into contact with blacks you have no idea what blacks experience. It's called self preservation. That is all the kid was trying to do. Protect his own life. I have no issue with anyone defending themselves but that option applies to ALL of us! Do you condone killing young black teenagers? Perhaps you need to look up the word paranoid. Also, what's with the women and children comment? It is people like you that want to quiet other's opinion you do not agree with. There's always more than one viewpoint. Logic is also very important to the thought process.


Self-preservation would've been calling the police, and running home. Not confronting someone. Also, you seem to bash on anyone with a different viewpoint than your own. That's like the pot calling the kettle a pot.