George Zimmerman, the Florida man who has been publicly accused but not formally charged in the shooting death of an unarmed teenager, is speaking out now on the internet for the first time and soliciting funds to help his defense.
On a simply designed website set against the backdrop of an America flag, Zimmerman tells of the situations he has encountered since February 26, the day he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.
The death and the handling of the case by the local police department touched off a national debate on race, profiling and standing your ground in America.
In his first public statement, Zimmerman opens, saying “I am the real George Zimmerman.” It’s necessary to establish the site’s authenticity, Zimmerman said, because other sites have been launched, supposedly on his behalf.
“On Sunday February 26th, I was involved in a life-altering event which led me to become the subject of intense media coverage. As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life. This website’s sole purpose is to ensure my supporters they are receiving my full attention without any intermediaries,” he wrote.
“It has come to my attention that some persons and/or entities have been collecting funds, thinly veiled as my ‘Defense Fund’ or ‘Legal Fund.’ I cannot attest to the validity of these other websites as I have not received any funds collected, intended to support my family and I through this trying, tragic time.”
Zimmerman has set up a Paypal account to receive funds from his supporters. He also is accepting funds through major credit cards, including American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Discover.
“I will also personally maintain accountability of all funds received. I reassure you, every donation is appreciated,” he said.
In a section of the site under the header “Race,” there is no description, only a quote from the English/American author Thomas Paine that reads: “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”
Zimmerman’s first public comments come just as the special prosecutor appointed in the case by the Florida governor decided not to present the case to the grand jury. Charges still could be filed against Zimmerman, but none have been announced.
“The state must go forward and be able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Angela Corey, the special prosecutor assigned to the case, in a statement.
Corey, a state’s attorney who is based in Jacksonville, began working with the case about three weeks following the shooting. Her team must not only investigate what happened to lead to Trayvon’s death, but also the missteps taken by the local law enforcement.
From California to New York, the calls for justice for Trayvon Martin continue. In several U.S. cities on Easter Sunday, hundreds of motorcyclists mounted their wheels to ride in honor of Trayvon Martin.
In Durham, North Carolina, about 350 bikers assembled and rode to Greensboro, North Carolina where they met up with other bikers.
“The most important thing that we need to learn as part of the community is to make sure that your neighbors are treated fairly, that everybody you deal with is treated fairly and just being aware,” event organizer Ramsey Richardson told WRAL.com. Organizers of that ride also raised money that will go to the Trayvon Martin fund in Florida to help pay for legal costs associated with the case.
In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, about 70 bikers from 10 different clubs gathered for a ride in honor of Trayvon.
“I feel the situation itself is that if no one stands up now, something like this will happen again to another young man,” said Curtis Foster of the Carolina Cruisers motorcycle club, in an article published in the Winston-Salem Journal. “This is not a problem for any one group. It is a problem for everybody.”