Zimmerman interview part of plan to promote website, raise more defense funds

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. —

WFTV has learned that an interview George Zimmerman granted to Sean Hannity was part of an effort to get supporters to donate to his depleted legal defense fund.

Zimmerman faces second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

And now Zimmerman is taking his case straight to the public. He's relaunched his website, theRealGeorgeZimmerman.com, seeking to connect with supporters and raise more funds and he's posted a new video.

On Thursday, Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, told Channel 9 the Hannity interview was part of a tactic to get Zimmerman supporters to donate more money. But overnight, Zimmerman only raised an additional $1,000 to $2,000, WFTV learned.

O'Mara claims that's because Hannity didn't promote the new website like he agreed to during that first interview.

On the site, Zimmerman states, "The fund has been devastated by the need to pay $100,000 to a bondsman and almost $50,000 in security expenses. The skyrocketing legal costs have gone unpaid. The defense fund is at its lowest point since its inception; in fact, with outstanding expenses yet unpaid, the fund is near depletion."

Zimmerman released a video on his website, thanking his supporters.

"We re-launched this website to once again thank you, my supporters," Zimmerman said in the video. "My intention was, and still is, to personally and individually thank you all."

Zimmerman spoke first in English and then repeated his statment in Spanish.

"This is our website. It's not my website. This is our website where you can personally communicate with me," he said in the video.

But some would argue a second site wasn't needed. O'Mara already has a site established and it accepts money for Zimmerman's defense.

WFTV asked O'Mara whether he'd lost control of his client, who posted the video online just hours after his first television interview.

"He's launched the website, (he's) doing interviews. Are you concerned you may have lost control of him?" WFTV's Daralene Jones asked.

"Not whatsoever. We've had great conversations about all these decisions before they've been made," said O'Mara.

Mark O'Mara forced Zimmerman to take the website down after he agreed to be his attorney.

And there are reports that Zimmerman initially posted critical information about his defense team when he re-activated the site.

O'Mara said the two talked and re-launched the website to raise more money.

O'Mara weighed in on the timing of the Hannity interview, saying it "wasn't the best."

"It's out of necessity," O'Mara said. "George and his family and the defense fund is basically broke, and he was hoping that he could highlight (the website)."

O'Mara claims the $211,000 Zimmerman had last week had been wiped out.

"He needs money. No question about that," said O'Mara. "He needs to survive between now and his acquittal."

In the meantime, prosecutors have filed the interview into evidence, which means it could be used against Zimmerman at trial.

"The prosecutors will have watched this interview, have it transcribed, and they are going to be prepared to cross-examine him at trial," said WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer.

O'Mara has motives, too, according to Channel 9's Daralene Jones. He is no longer doing the case pro bono. O'Mara said on Thursday that he may ask the court to declare Zimmerman indigent if they can't raise more money.