A statement has been released by "witness 9," an unidentified person who's told authorities that George Zimmerman may be racially biased. NBC's Janet Shamlian has the details.
An unnamed witness who grew up around George Zimmerman contacted authorities after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin because she feared that Zimmerman was motivated by a prejudice against black people, she said in recorded conversations with investigators. The witness also alleges that Zimmerman molested her over the course of a decade, starting when she was 6 years old.
The woman, known in the records as Witness #9, spoke to the investigators on March 20, interviewers in the audio recording indicated. The recording was released by the Florida State Attorney's Office on Monday under the state's open records laws. The identity of the witness was not released, but NBC News has reported she is a cousin.
Zimmerman's defense team had attempted to block the release of the audiotapes, but their motion was denied by Seminole County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester.
"Growing up, (Zimmerman) and his family always made statements that they didn’t like black people if they don’t act like white people," the witness, who would be about 27 now, told investigators in the taped conversation. "They like black people if they act white. Other than that, they talked a lot of bad things about black people."
Asked if she could cite a specific instance where Zimmerman expressed racial bias, the witness said she could not recall one, and did not know of specific actions he had taken against black people in the past.
"It’s just a known thing that that’s how the family feels," she said.
In a separate taped interview with investigators, Witness #9 alleges that Zimmerman took opportunities when the families were together to sexually molest her. The alleged incidents would have taken place when Zimmerman, two years older than the witness, was between 8 and 18 years old.
The earliest incident she said she could remember took place when she was about 6 years old while she was staying with the Zimmerman family in Virginia while her mother and father moved to Orlando, Fla., from Louisiana. She alleges that Zimmerman groped her under the blanket, the first in a series of traumatic incidents that she says continued at family get-togethers until she was about 16.
No police report or charges were ever filed in the case.
It was unclear how or if the prosecution would use the sexual abuse allegations by the witness.
Zimmerman's defense attorney, Mark O'Mara, tried to block release of both tapes by the special prosecutor on grounds that it was irrelevant to the Martin case.
"The motion further contends that this irrelevant statement should be withheld from public dissemination because of the substantial risk that public disclosure will lead to widespread hostile publicity which would substantially impair the Defendant's fair trial rights, and would pose a serious threat to the administration of justice," O'Mara said in a statement posted to the Zimmerman defense web site.
"Now that this statement is part of the public record, the defense will vigorously defend Mr. Zimmerman against the allegations. In the next several weeks, there will be reciprocal discovery filed regarding Witness #9's statement," the statement said.
O'Mara also sought to keep sealed about 130 of Zimmerman's jailhouse phone calls that were also released on Monday.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon Martin's family, issued a statement saying that the woman's testimony contained in the tapes should be included in the evidence.
"Zimmerman's mentality is very relevant to this trial," said Crump. "As the State Attorney previously stated, (Witness #9) certainly would be a rebuttal witness very similar to that in the Sandusky trial showing that (Zimmerman) has a history of violence and manipulation."
Crump was referring to Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach who awaits sentencing after being convicted last month of 45 counts for abusing 10 boys.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting death of Martin, 17, who was unarmed and walking through the gated neighborhood of Sanford, Fla., where Martin's father and Zimmerman lived.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty, and asserts that he was acting in self-defense after Martin punched him in the face and repeatedly slammed his head into the sidewalk. He is out of jail on bail and awaiting trial.
The case has ignited an emotional nationwide debate on race and gun rights.
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