There are several new developments in the wake of the shooting death of the unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The Sanford, Florida police chief who was strongly criticized for his agency's initial investigation into the February slaying has been fired, reports MSNBC.
City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. dismissed Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, effective immediately. ... Lee, 52, stepped aside temporarily March 22, saying he had become a distraction, and he has been on paid administrative leave since. The night before he relinquished his duties, the Sanford City Commission had voted 3-2 that it had "no confidence" in Lee. He tried to quit April 23, but the commission rejected his resignation.
National civil-rights leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and NAACP President Ben Jealous, also had demanded Lee's dismissal because his department did not arrest George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon, an unarmed black 17-year-old, on Feb. 26. A special prosecutor later charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder. Zimmerman, who says he acted in self-defense, is in the Seminole County Jail awaiting trial.
A judge revoked Zimmerman's bond earlier this month for allegedly lying about his finances and concealing a second passport. Prosecutors have released the audio of a half-dozen phone calls between a locked-up George Zimmerman and his wife that prove this, reports the Orlando Sentinel.
The recordings show that from his jail cell, Zimmerman gave his wife step-by-step instructions on how to change a password and clear security questions so she could move money, gave her orders to withdraw specific amounts and directed her to pay the bills. Prosecutors allege the couple was moving money out of an Internet PayPal account that was awash with donations for Zimmerman.
The couple spoke in code, according to prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda. And neither Zimmerman or his wife ever refer to more than $100,000, talking instead about amounts generally totaling "10 dollars" and "20 dollars." Prosecutors say those were references to $10,000 and $20,000. Prosecutors allege the couple had access to at least $130,000 in mid-April, just before Zimmerman was freed from the Seminole County Jail on $150,000 bond.
Shellie Zimmerman has been charged with perjury.
Zimmerman acted as a self-appointed neighborhood watchman in the gated suburban community. Audio from 911 tapes reveal that police dispatchers warned Zimmerman not to follow Martin—who was walking from the store—or leave his vehicle. The Sanford Police Department has not explained why Zimmerman left his vehicle or how he and Martin came to be face to face.
The Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation are considering charging George Zimmerman with violating the federal hate crime law. Zimmerman could face life in prison or the death penalty.
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