A Florida family helped by George Zimmerman after a car accident called a press conference on Wednesday to talk about it — and then abruptly canceled because they feared "blowback," according to Zimmerman's lawyer.
“I think what happened with them today was they were very worried, and I think were advised by some family and friends, that they really should not get involved with anything having to do with George Zimmerman,” defense attorney Mark O’Mara told reporters.
“And that’s really sad that they can’t even say that George did something good for them because people out there believe he is still so toxic,” he added.
Police say the encounter between the family and Zimmerman happened July 17, four days after a jury found him not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, sparking protests and vigils around the country and calls for a federal civil-rights investigation.
The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said Monday that Zimmerman, 29, helped two children and their parents out of their SUV when he saw it overturned on the side of a Florida highway. The family was not badly hurt.
A spokesman for Zimmerman's defense team said the family was besieged by media for interviews and reached out to O'Mara's office for help. The legal team suggested the family hold a brief press conference to recount the details, and one was scheduled for Wednesday.
At the last minute, the family switched gears, said they wanted privacy and has since changed their number, the spokesman said.
Zimmerman, 29, isn't talking, either. Since his acquittal, he has been staying at an undisclosed location out of fear for his safety, spending time with his family, O'Mara said.
The former Sanford, Fla., neighborhood watch volunteer said he shot Martin, whom he was following, in self-defense after the 17-year-old allegedly turned and attacked him while walking through a gated community.
Although Zimmerman is of white and Hispanic descent and Martin was black, prosecutors did not make race a major issue during the trial. The verdict, however, has reignited national debate about racial profiling, race-relations and Stand Your Ground self-defense laws.
Zimmerman, who says race played no role in the shooting, remains the subject of a Justice Department civil-rights violation investigation and could also face a wrongful-death civil suit from Martin's parents.
Speaking to reporters after the crash family's appearance was scrapped, O'Mara also addressed unfounded rumors that Zimmerman's assistance was somehow staged to polish his image.
“I will acknowledge it was awfully coincidental for five days after the verdict but it was not set up or staged,” said O’Mara. "Really, do you think we would have set up a family of four on the side destroying an SUV for this?”
First published July 24 2013, 5:21 PM