Zimmerman attorneys quit

April 10, 2012 at 6:28 PM
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SANFORD, Fla., April 10 (UPI) -- Lawyers for a Florida man claiming self-defense in the shooting death of an unarmed teenager backed out of the case Tuesday, saying he won't return their calls.

The Miami Herald reported attorneys Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig said they had lost touch with George Zimmerman, who has been in hiding since Trayvon Martin was killed, and Zimmerman had begun making moves without talking to them first.

Martin was shot and killed by the 28-year-old crime-watch volunteer in a gated community in Sanford Feb. 26 as the 17-year-old was walking to the home of his father's girlfriend from a convenience store.

Zimmerman, who is white, told police he shot the black teen in self-defense, invoking Florida's so-called stand-your-ground law.

The lawyers, who had only a verbal agreement with their client, said Zimmerman made unilateral decisions to call special prosecutor Angela Corey and Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity.

"He won't even give me a collect call," Sonner told the Herald.

Zimmerman also set up a Web site linked to PayPal to raise money, separate from one set up through his father, to assure supporters "they are receiving my full attention without any intermediaries."

"On Sunday February 26th, I was involved in a life altering event which led me to become the subject of intense media coverage," the home page of "The Real George Zimmerman" said. "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."

The Web site, which features the American flag as a background on the home page, includes a PayPal account for contributions Zimmerman said would be used "only for living expenses and legal defense in lieu of my forced inability to maintain employment."

He said he couldn't attest to the validity of other Web sites that are soliciting funds for him because "I have not received any funds collected."

Due to the massive number of visitors, the site has crashed several times since its launch.

The attorneys said Zimmerman also has left Florida although he still is in the United States.

Corey said Monday she would not take the case to a grand jury and would instead make a decision about how to move forward herself.

"The decision should not be considered a factor in the final determination of the case," her office said in a statement.

The decision by local authorities not to bring charges against Zimmerman set off a national outcry and led to a decision by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to assign Corey, the state attorney for the Jacksonville area, to take over the case March 22.

The U.S. Justice Department also opened an investigation.

The decision to forgo a grand jury means Zimmerman will not be charged with first-degree murder -- a charge that requires a grand jury indictment in Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Before the case was handed over to Corey, Sanford police classified it as a possible manslaughter.

A conviction on that charge would carry a possible maximum sentence of 30 years, the Sentinel said.

Corey did not indicate when she would make a decision about Zimmerman's fate.

"We are not surprised by this announcement and, in fact, are hopeful that a decision will be reached very soon to arrest George Zimmerman and give Trayvon Martin's family the simple justice they have been seeking all along," Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin's parents, said in a statement.

For weeks, Crump and Martin's father have called for an immediate arrest, but Crump asked for patience in his statement Monday.

"The family has been patient throughout this process and asks that those who support them do the same during this very important investigation," he said.

Sanford police said a police cruiser was hit with gunshots while it was parked near the townhome community where Martin was shot. No one was inside the vehicle at the time.

Police told WFTV, Orlando, Fla., the cruiser had been parked at Bentley Elementary School for several weeks following Martin's death.

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