The Lookout

George Zimmerman defense team responds to cousin’s molestation claims

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Zimmerman during a court hearing April 12, 2012. (AP/Pool)

[Updated at 5:30 p.m. EDT]

A family friend of George Zimmerman told investigators he sexually molested her on and off for nearly a decade, newly released audio tapes in the Trayvon Martin shooting case reveal.

"He would reach under the blankets and try to do things," the woman—identified as Witness 9—told investigators.

Zimmerman's defense team later identified the unnamed woman as his cousin and said they plan to file "reciprocal discovery" in the coming weeks.

"Now that this statement is part of the public record, the defense will vigorously defend Mr. Zimmerman against the allegations," they said on a website dedicated to Zimmerman's defense.

The accuser said the molestation occurred at Zimmerman's parents' house when they were growing up.

"I would try to push him off, but he was bigger, stronger and older," she said during the interview conducted on March 20, less than a month after the Feb. 26 shooting. The woman, who contacted prosecutors after Martin's killing, said she was 6 and Zimmerman was 8 when the alleged molestation began. It continued until she was 16, she said.

Investigators asked the woman why she was coming forward now. "This is the first time in my life that I'm not afraid of him," she replied.

The woman also told state investigators that she anonymously called Sanford police after Martin's death.

"I was afraid that he may have done something because the kid was black," the woman says on the recordings. She said she had no direct knowledge of the shooting death, but wanted police to know Zimmerman had made negative comments about blacks when they were growing up.

As for the molestation allegations, her family would get together with Zimmerman's at least once a year, she said. "Every time that we would go up there, I could just look at him and he would give me a certain look and I would just know it was going to happen when we got together for family gatherings. ... He just got this look in his eye like he was going to [molest me]."

The woman said she was not the only victim. "It's not just me that he would do these things to," she told investigators. But the other alleged victim would never come forward, Witness 9 said, declining to give investigators her name: "She said she would deny it either way."

Georgie, she said, would tell her to tell others that they were just lying down or playing hide-n-seek. "Georgie just sucked up to my dad," she said. "He was like the son he never had."

The audio was released on Monday along with dozens of recordings from phone calls Zimmerman made while behind bars in April. Defense attorney Mark O'Mara fought until the last minute to keep the recordings from Witness 9 a secret, but Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. ruled the evidence is public information and ordered them to be made available.

"This irrelevant statement should be withheld from public dissemination because of the substantial risk that public disclosure will lead to widespread hostile publicity which would substantially impair the Defendant's fair trial rights, and would pose a serious threat to the administration of justice," the defense said on its website.

Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder in Martin's death.

"He was very charming and personable with everybody in the family," the woman said of Zimmerman. "But he was different behind closed doors with me. ... He was very intimidating."

She said one of the last incidents occurred when she was 16. Zimmerman, who had graduated from high school and moved to Florida with his family, massaged and kissed her, causing her to run out of the home. The woman said she eventually quit attending family functions if she thought he was going to be there.

"I couldn't take it," she said. "I didn't want to be around him anymore."

She said she eventually told her sister about her encounters with Zimmerman. The sister then told their parents.

The alleged victim said she and her parents tried to discuss the abuse with Zimmerman at a Lake Mary, Fla., restaurant in 2005. "He said, 'I'm sorry' and just got up and walked out."

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