PoliticsNation | April 10, 2012
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to "Politics Nation." I'm Al Sharpton . Breaking news tonight. George Zimmerman 's defense team quits. Turning Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig met with the press moments ago, dropping this bomb shell.
CRAIG SONNER, FORMER GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: As of now, we are withdrawing as counsel for Mr. Zimmerman . We lost contact with him. Up to this point we've had contact every day. He's gone on his own. I'm not sure what he's doing or who he's talking to, but at this point, we're withdrawing as counsel. As of, I believe, Sunday, and the last couple days, he has not returned phone calls or text messages or e-mails, leading me to believe that I can't go forward speaking to the public about George Zimmerman in this case, as help representing him because I've lost contact with him.
HAL UHRIG, FORMER GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: As of Sunday we lost contact with George and that he would return our calls, our calls. Our co- process here is that we are professionals. Craig Sonner , Craig Sonner PA , Hal Uhrig the defense group, we do this for a living. We try to do a good job of it. But we are not putting ourselves out to the public as continuing representatives of a client unless he makes it clear us to he wants us to be his representatives.
SONNER: I can't keep coming and talking with the media sane, yes, I represent George Zimmerman when he has given me indications that I'm not representing him.
SHARPTON: This is a huge development, folks, so, huge development in this story. His former lawyers lost contact with him. So where is he?
SONNER: I'm not going to say anything about where George Zimmerman is -- his location. It's been kept a secret from a lot of people. I'm not going to reveal that now. Based on what I know of him to this point, he's not going to flee the country .
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What about the the possibility of doing harm to himself ?
SONNER: I don't I don't believe so at this point. He is in hiding and it was better for him to stay in hiding and stay safe.
UHRIG: You can stop looking in Florida . Look much further away from that, which is also a reason why we didn't meet with him, because it was simply not reasonable. Our hands were busy, a, with the law practices that we already have, and b, we are doing everything we could for his benefit.
SHARPTON: George Zimmerman is not in Florida . But it doesn't end there. His legal team learned today, he made phone calls that disturbed them, from TV hosts to get this, the special prosecutor 's office . He called those prosecutors himself -- .
UHRIG: We learned that he had called Sean Hannity of FOX News directly, not through us, and we believed, I can't confirm this, we believe that he spoke directly with Sean , off the record. Today we spoke with special prosecutor 's office out of Jacksonville . We had been working over the weekend and diligently trying to set up a meeting between Mr. Zimmerman and the special prosecutor 's office . We heard today that George had contacted the prosecutor's office directly. One of the things every defense attorney tells his client is, don't talk to the prosecutor, don't talk to the cops, don't talk to anybody until we get control of the situation, and do it through counsel. We were a bit astonished. They told us what we expected was. We are not going to talk to a criminal -- potential defendant or suspect or target of an investigation without counsel. We're just not going to do it. And they told him that. He then called back after some conversation with us and said that's not a problem. I don't really have any attorneys any more. Those guys were just my legal advisors.
SHARPTON: His former defense team also said they had no idea, no idea; Zimmerman was going to start his own defense Web site yesterday.
UHRIG: Mr. Sonner was accompanied to the bank by Mr. Zimmerman 's father, for the purpose of setting up a Web site by which people might make donations. We went to great lengths to make sure the Web site was set up in way to which the PayPal account paid directly to an account on which for his father has the control on the signature rights. On Sunday, we lost track of George and that he would not return our calls and we couldn't get a hold of him. And we had no reason of that on, we believe it was anything suspect, but on Monday we began fielding questions about, did we know anything about the, I'm the real George Zimmerman or George Zimmerman . com Web site. And our initial thought was that is probably bogus. George hasn't talked to us about that. We don't know about it . So we started inquiring and frankly confirmed that he through friends or family had in fact set that site up.
SHARPTON: The lawyers also talked about Zimmerman 's state of mind .
UHRIG: This has been a terribly corrosive process. George Zimmerman , in our opinion, and information to us, is not doing well emotionally, probably suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome . We understand he may have lost a lot of weight. Our concern is it for him to do this when he has professionals out there working as hard as we were for his benefits, to handle it this way, suggests that he may not be in complete control of what is going on. We are concerned for his emotional and physical safety.
SHARPTON: Big development. What does it mean? Joining me now is Benjamin Crump , attorney for Trayvon Martin 's family. Ben , thanks for being here.
BENJAMIN CRUMP, MARTIN FAMILY'S ATTORNEY: Thank you, Reverend Al .
SHARPTON: Zimmerman lawyers are out. Is that a surprising press conference? And what do you make of this development?
CRUMP: It is very surprising, Reverend Sharpton . And it is a big development because it causes great concern for the family of Trayvon Martin . His mother, Sybrina Fulton , and his father, Tracy Martin , say does this mean they don't know where this guy is at? They're concerned that George Zimmerman , the man who killed their son, Reverend Sharpton , is unaccounted for. His lawyers can't account for his with whereabouts. He won't return their calls. And there were -- is he a flight risk? Will he ever be brought it justice if and when he is charged for killing their son? Those are some very serious questions that they have.
SHARPTON: Now, are you concerned about that? I mean, you now have a guy who has no legal representation, has not an officer of the court in touch with the prosecutor's office that can claim responsibility for him.
CRUMP: Yes. Reverend Sharpton , what you just told America , through the series of interviews with his lawyers, he's not in the state of Florida . Nobody knows where this guy's at. He's unaccounted for. The killer of Trayvon Martin is unaccounted for. And that is terribly troubling for his mother and father, who, simply have been asked that he be brought it justice. Had he been arrested, from the first day when he killed that unarmed teenager, then we will be dealing with this situation. Now we are 43 days and counting, and no arrest . And we have all this we have to deal with now.
SHARPTON: Now, the calls to the prosecutor, isn't that unusual to you? Have you ever heard of that before?
CRUMP: Well, the one thing I do agree with, his former lawyers, you don't have -- you don't call -- talk to the prosecutors or police. You have your lawyers do it. And so it's very surprising that he would call himself . But you know, we've said, George Zimmerman is loose cannon . Our legal team was talking earlier. This is per all of the evidence he is a loose cannon , Reverend Sharpton , and he is very unpredictable. So we are very worried about him being a flight risk. Again, the killer of Trayvon Martin is unaccountable for. Nobody knows where the killer of Trayvon Martin is.
SHARPTON: Now, now -- and I might add, the prosecutor's office told them they are not going to talk it a potential defendant, suspect, wouldn't talk to him. But to think he called them and then called back again, and the lawyers, as you said, stated very clearly, they've lost contact with him. They don't think he would leave the country , but they don't know where he is. They haven't talked to him since Sunday. But he is far from Florida , no quote them exactly.-
CRUMP: Yes. And Reverend Sharpton , as I understand it, they never met him. So, how can they say they don't think he will leave the country ? He it is troubling to think that person who killed your child is unaccounted for and the question is, will he ever be brought to justice?
SHARPTON: Let me ask you, Mr. Crump , what does this do to what we have heard about Mr. Zimmerman 's side of story for his father and his lawyers. Here's a guy that told different side of the story, who all of the sudden just quits talking to his lawyers, starts calling prosecutors, starts calling TV host , I mean, does that speak a lot to how his story may or may not have a lot of credibility? I mean, wouldn't the prosecutor have to look at the value of his word now?
CRUMP: I think Reverend Sharpton , you are absolutely right. They should look at everything. They should look at all of the 911 calls he made before Trayvon Martin 's call, over 46 calls. And about 75 percent of them were dealing with African-American males as being suspicious. Then you take this unpredictable irrational conduct into play, and you want to look at all of that when you look at the totality of the evidence. And I keep going back to it Reverend Sharpton , because this unpredictable person who killed Trayvon Martin is unaccounted for. It is so troubling.
SHARPTON: We cannot lose sight of that. Ben Crump , stand by for one second, please.
I want it bring in Catherine Crier . She is a former district court judge and a prosecutor in Texas and award winning journalist. She is also a best-selling author with the new book, "patriot acts," one of America 's most Republican. Also with us is John Burris , and experienced criminal defense attorney . Thank you both for being here tonight. Let me start with you Catherine , how could this development affect the case?
CATHERINE CRIER, LEGAL EXPERT: Well, very dramatically certainly. If either he were to literally disappear or represent himself , and certainly if he is communicating with the prosecutor saying don't worry about those lawyers, I'm really sort of on my own, he seems to be asserting self representation. But I I think the prosecution I would be surprised if the prosecutors investigators with law enforcement don't know where he is. First of all, the lawyers made it clear they knew he left the state . I think they had an idea before losing contact on Sunday. Besides that, between land lines, other means of keeping tabs on people, cell phones, I'm sure law enforcement has a pretty good idea of where he is. What my gut says, this sort of irrational behavior, you do wonder about mental stability, which could mean danger to others or danger to himself . That that could present a twist and possible outcome in this case, which is not something anyone wants.
SHARPTON: John Burris , you're a defense attorney . How does this sound to you? Have you ever had this kind of experience or heard of this kind of person that is being looked at in such a serious crime, and they just go -- disappear on their defense attorneys?
JOHN BURRIS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, not so much disappear but certainly bizarre behavior does happen. Sometimes defendants, you take them as you find them, have all kind of sociopathic type issues. This is a case where a guy appears to have real mental issues here, maybe post traumatic, whatever. But it is not surprising given what he knew about him at the outset and given what he said. I think could you expect to have this kind of irrational behavior. What I'm surprised to be is that the lawyers would quit at this stage. Given that they have only add day or two, he made statements that are kind of --
SHARPTON: But they never left. I mean, the lawyers have never met him.
BURRIS: Well, even so.
SHARPTON: So, for whatever reasons, we don't know how bizarre the whole situation was. They were dealing with him by phone. I mean, maybe they said this whole thing was too bizarre.
BURRIS: It is bizarre. But I understand the lawyers are dealing with the parent. They are dealing with him, and unless he told them definitively that he does not want it represent them, I think the lawyers probably should have stayed around a little bit longer and not made such a big announcement right now. Unless something dramatically has happened that maybe even contradicts some of the information they have been talking about. That is to say, he has told them one story, now he is telling them another --
SHARPTON: Yes and they don't want to betray the confidence with the contradiction of information.
BURRIS: That I could see.
CRIER: John , I haven't seen you in a while. I agree with you completely.
BURRIS: Yes. How you doing Catherine ?
CRIER: When I was listening to the press conference, I thought, we're not getting the full story and probably not because the lawyers don't want to tell us, but because they are obviously limitations because they have been representing this man. But something more had to occur because if they lost contact about 36 hours ago, they are not going to walk away unless he either fired them, which I think they would have told us, if specifically and directly fired them, or if there wasn't something else going on. So I'm kind of --
SHARPTON: But he said that he told the prosecutor's office , they were just his legal advisors. They were not his lawyers.
CRIER: But that's not the kind of dismissal you need to remove yourself from the case. You need to talk to your client. You need to know you are off the case. I wonder if something else that didn't concern them, about sort of the ethics grievance committee issues about representation, about the Web site set up, something going on financially or something between themselves and the client that is much more, you know, egregious than what we have heard from them.
SHARPTON: John , could this affect the special prosecutors in terms of expediting a decision on --
BURRIS: I think -- I think could. And probably should. Assuming she has the evidence that she wants. I mean, obviously that is a strategic question when is he going to do it. But the reason I think is important now, if there is some reason to believe he is gone and you don't necessarily know where he is, you want to get be an arrest warrant , a complaint, arrest warrant out and you want to get this person found as quickly as you can. On the other hand , if she waits, that might suggests she is not that comfortable with the evidence. And maybe they do know where he is. But if she doesn't, I think she has it file this complaint very soon, get an arrest warrant out and get this person found because he could hurt himself . He could hurt someone else . And that's real trouble, I think, that everyone should be appreciative of the fact that this guy is bizarre and he could do harm to himself or someone else .
SHARPTON: Let me go back to attorney Crump . Attorney Crump , the special prosecutor said she was not going to go through the grand jury . She dismissed that yesterday which took first degree murder off the table in the state of Florida . But she can indict in second degree murder all homicide negligent manslaughter. What do you feel the options are now?
CRUMP: Well, a couple things about that Reverend Sharpton . She can always modify those charges if there is evidence that comes to light that weren't a first degree murder charge. She has simply had the take it back to the grand jury . That's not unprecedented. Furthermore, we thought that it was somewhat a positive thing that she did not convene the grand jury because we understand the legal community when you take a matter a grand jury , you really are taking it there to let it die. And where the prosecutor can wash their and absolve themselves on any liability for our failure to arrest and just put it on the jury. And say this was a private proceeding. We presented everything. And they said, there's not enough evidence. So, we always thought of that as passing the buck or cop out to go to the grand jury , so we commend and applaud special prosecutor Angela Corey for saying, I'm going to make the decision whether to arrest or not arrest . It is going to be my decision. And we have always maintained, there is enough evidence to make this decision to simply arrest him. Not to convict him, but arrest him. The family only wants simple justice. They don't want anything else.
SHARPTON: And he could face second degree murder, which is 25 years to life, manslaughter, five to 30 years, aggravated battery, with a firearm, three years to 30. All of that, by her charge without a grand jury even in the state of Florida . My view has been, from the beginning, there needs to be an arrest , can't say there needs to be conviction. We don't know the charge. We don't know the evidence. But there needs to be an arrest . I think it needs to be an immediate arrest now. A man sets up a bank account , and all of a sudden you can't find him. They may say they think he won't flee, I don't know that. I think he should be arrested. Martin family, Attorney Ben Crump , see you in Washington , D.C. tomorrow. Catherine Crier and John Burris , thank you for your time tonight.
CRUMP: Thank you so much .
BURRIS: Thank you.
SHARPTON: We're back with more on the breaking news today. Zimmerman 's lawyers quit. So where is George Zimmerman ? Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Bomb shell news today in