Sanford, Florida 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot to death in a racially-motivated attack. Residents of the central Florida city say the action was taken by vigilante George Zimmerman who has not been arrested., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
July 16, 2012
Woman Accuses Zimmerman of Molesting Her
By LIZETTE ALVAREZ
New York Times
MIAMI — An Orlando woman now in her mid-20s told investigators that George Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, molested her over a decade, beginning when they were both young children, according to an audiotape released on Monday.
The woman, whose parents were close to the Zimmerman family, talked to investigators on March 20. Identified only as Witness 9, she said she had come forward, a decade after her last encounter with Mr. Zimmerman, because “with everything going on, I know he’s not going to be out in public.”
It is unclear how, or whether, prosecutors plan to use the allegations in their case against Mr. Zimmerman, who is free on $1 million bond. Mark O’Mara, Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer, tried unsuccessfully at the last minute to block the special prosecutor from releasing the tape, which he said was irrelevant and prejudicial. He also sought to block the release of another tape in which the same witness describes Mr. Zimmerman’s family as routinely disparaging black people.
The witness said that Mr. Zimmerman, who is about two years older than she is, first molested her when she was 6. She was staying in the Zimmermans’ Virginia home while her parents were moving to Orlando, Fla., from Louisiana. The woman said Mr. Zimmerman had groped her while they lay under a blanket as they watched television with a group of other children.
Other groping episodes followed, she said. She visited the family “at least once a year” and she was molested during some of those visits, she said, including once behind a curtain when she was 7 or 8 and another time on a bunk bed when she was around 12.
“Before we left the room or left any place, he would say we weren’t doing anything — we were just laying there or we were just playing hide-and-seek,” said the woman, whose voice cracked as she recounted the events. “He would always make sure that he told me that. And I didn’t know. I was a kid. I didn’t know any better.”
The acts typically involved “a lot of kissing, groping. He would put his hands under my shirt and just rub and grab my chest and put his hands down my pants again,” the woman said.
The woman said that she had been traumatized by what happened and that she had been too ashamed to tell anyone, including her parents. But she said she also feared that no one would believe her because Mr. Zimmerman came across as so likable.
“.He was always very charming and personable with everyone in the family and would always just laugh and entertain everybody,” she said. “But he was different behind closed doors with me.”
The last encounter, and the only one that took place in Florida, occurred shortly after Mr. Zimmerman arrived in Lake Mary, not far from where she lived with her family, the woman said. She was 16 and Mr. Zimmerman was 18. He had invited her to a housewarming gathering, she said. When she arrived, he was alone. Frightened, she said, she followed his instructions and lay down on a bed, and he started groping her. At that point, she said, she got up, ran out and jumped into her car. He followed her to the door but no farther, she said.
In 2005, when the woman was 19, she confided in her sister, who told their parents, she said. She and her parents went to meet Mr. Zimmerman at a pizzeria in Lake Mary, she said. But she never described to them the full extent of the molesting, she said.
“Instead of talking about it, all he did was come in the room, come in the restaurant, and sat down on the end of the booth and said, ‘I’m sorry,’ and just got up and walked out,” she said.
Her mother thought it best not to pursue criminal charges, she said, adding that they believed the case would be dropped.
The witness said there had been a lasting effect.
“I tried so hard to forget it all and to make it go away that I even forgot the good stuff in life,” she said.
Mr. Zimmerman’s parents were also told about what had happened, she said. After she and her parents confronted Mr. Zimmerman, they did not see him again. In the other tape, the woman said the Zimmerman family had talked about race often and disparaged African-Americans. Mr. Zimmerman’s family said “they only like black people if they act like white people,” she said.
But but the woman also told investigators that she could not remember any specific racial remark or any example of racist behavior on the part of Mr. Zimmerman. "I can’t remember growing up exactly anything," she said. "It’s a known thing that that’s how their family feels."
The killing of Mr. Martin set off a furor among blacks because of the suspicion that Mr. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, and the Sanford, Fla., police had profiled Mr. Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, because he was black. Mr. Zimmerman shot and killed him on Feb. 26 in a nighttime encounter at the gated community where Mr. Martin was a guest.