Feedback
News

IT director who alleged evidence withheld from Zimmerman defense fired

Ben Kruidbos, an IT worker from the state attorney's office, testifies during a pre-trial hearing for George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida on June 6. Reuters/Joe Burbank/Pool

An employee of the Office of the State Attorney in Jacksonville, Fla., who testified that prosecutors withheld evidence from George Zimmerman’s defense team has been fired, his lawyer told NBC News.

Ben Kruidbos, who testified for the defense before the trial began and identified himself as a "whistleblower," alleged that his former employer concealed or was slow to deliver discovery information obtained from Trayvon Martin’s cell phone – including pictures of a hand holding a gun and a gun on a bed.

Zimmerman’s defense team has filed a motion of judicial sanctions against state prosecutors, alleging discovery violations. The state has denied these violations.

When reached for comment, state attorney’s office spokesperson Jackelyn Barnard confirmed that Kruidbos “is no longer an employee at the State Attorney’s Office.”

“Due to this being a personnel matter, there will be no further comment at this time,” Barnard said.

Kruidbos, the state office’s former information technology officer, testified at a June 6 pre-trial hearing that he discovered the photos after using software to analyze the raw data from the phone, put it all in a report and turned it over to Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda – who, he said, gave him mixed signals about whether he intended to pass it on to Zimmerman’s lawyers.

He said that in May he brought his concerns to Wesley White, an ex-prosecutor, who contacted the defense.

“I think all of the information being shared in the process is important to make sure it’s a fair trial,” Kruidbos testified, saying that he was concerned he would be held liable if he didn't share the information.

White, who resigned as a state prosecutor in December and now represents Kruidbos in private practice, shared with NBC News on Saturday a purported six-page termination letter his client received.

The letter, dated July 11, states: “It has come to our attention that you violated numerous State Attorney’s Office (SAO) policies and procedures and have engaged in deliberate misconduct that is especially egregious in light of your position as Director of Information Technology (IT).”

“Your egregious lack of regard for the sensitive nature of the information handled by this office is completely abhorrent. You have proven to be completely untrustworthy. Because of your deliberate, willful and unscrupulous actions, you can never again be trusted to step foot in this office,” the letter states.

The letter, signed by the state attorney office's managing director, Cheryl R. Peek, alleges that Kruidbos' intent "was not pursuant to any pure motive or genuine concern."

"Your feigned and spurious claim of possible liability was nothing more than shameful manipulation in a shallow, but obvious, attempt to cloak yourself in the protection of the whistleblower law," referencing the Florida statute that bars retaliation against state employees who disclose protected information.

The jury in the Zimmerman trial was deliberating for a second day Saturday with no indication of how long they might take to reach a verdict in the death of Martin.

Zimmerman, 29, who pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, says he shot Martin in self-defense when the teen attacked him after they crossed paths Feb. 26, 2012, in a gated community of Sanford, Fla. Martin, 17, was unarmed.

James Novogrod and Tracy Connor of NBC News contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation.