Zimmerman lawyer O’Mara says he did ‘nothing wrong’ in Florida Bar probe

George Zimmerman, left, is greeted by defense attorneys Mark O'Mara, right, and Don West, center, as he arrives in Seminole circuit court on the eighth day of his trial, in Sanford, Fla., in June. Joe Burbank / AP file

George Zimmerman's former lawyer, Mark O'Mara, who is the subject of an "open investigation" by the Florida Bar, said Tuesday that he has done "nothing wrong."

In a written statement, O'Mara said the matter stems from an inquiry he made to the bar association, seeking guidance on the "proper way to manage a defense fund and an online presence" while he was defending Zimmerman against a second-degree murder charge for the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.

The attorney said he knew that representing Zimmerman would be costly and he decided that soliciting donations online would allow him to mount a more aggressive defense than declaring his client indigent.

His office, O'Mara said, was strained by the onslaught of media inquiries, so he decided to create a website and social media accounts for updated.

"Not only have I done nothing wrong in regards to how we managed the defense fund and the online presence for the Zimmerman case, but I think we also set the standard for how these matters should be handled in future high-profile cases that warrant such measures," O'Mara wrote.

He also said that the probe by the Florida Bar was actually initiated by an request from his office and he was "certain that the matter will be closed shortly."

"In response to my request for information regarding the proper way to manage a defense fund and an online presence, The Florida Bar opened an inquiry, which included very specific questions regarding our policies for each and how we were conducting ourselves," O'Mara wrote. 

"The Florida Bar has an opportunity to provide some leadership by crafting official policies on how social media can and should be used in legal cases, and I hope to be a part of that process.

"Very soon another case will erupt onto the national stage, and I hope the lawyer in that case can look at how we managed the press in our case as an example of how to do it right."

In a statement on Monday, the Florida Bar had confirmed there was an open matter but declined to provide details.

"I can confirm that The Florida Bar has one case pending at staff in regard to Atty. Mark O'Mara's representation of George Zimmerman," a spokeswoman said.

"All other information is confidential at this time, as is the case with all open investigations."

Zimmerman, 29, was acquitted in July. O'Mara has said he and co-counsel Don West have not been paid for 6,000 hours of work.

O'Mara, whose firm charges $400-an-hour, is no longer representing Zimmerman, who said in a recent court filing that he is $2.5 million in debt.

The former neighborhood watch volunteer has been the subject of two domestic violence investigations since his acquittal. No charges were brought in the first probe, which stemmed from a confrontation with his estranged wife, Shellie Zimmerman.

In the second, Zimmerman's ex-girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, withdrew her complaint and recanted her claims after calling 911 and accusing him of threatening her with a gun.