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Neighborhood watch shooter released from U.S. jail

SANFORD, Florida (AP) -- In a low-key event for such a high-profile case, the neighborhood watch volunteer awaiting his second-degree murder trial in the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin was released from a Florida jail on $150,000 bail.

George Zimmerman was wearing a brown jacket and blue jeans and carrying a paper bag as he walked out of the jail around midnight Sunday. He was following another man and didn't look over at photographers gathered outside. The two then got into a white BMW car and drove away.

No questions were shouted at Zimmerman from members of the news media at the scene, and he gave no statement. His ultimate destination is being kept secret for his safety and it could be outside Florida.

Zimmerman, 28, fatally shot 17-year-old Martin on Feb. 26 inside a Florida gated community where Zimmerman and Martin's father's fiancee both lived. Zimmerman says he shot Martin in self-defense. The case has sparked national protests and accusations or racial profiling. Martin was black; Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is from Peru.

As with the July 2011 release of Casey Anthony, a Florida woman whose acquittal for murder in the death of her young daughter was national news, Zimmerman was released around midnight. But the similarities end there. Anthony was quickly whisked away by deputy sheriffs armed with rifles as angry protesters jeered her. While news helicopters briefly tracked her SUV through Orlando before she slipped from public view, there was no such pursuit of Zimmerman, who will have to return for trial.

Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said at a hearing Friday that Zimmerman cannot have any guns and must observe a 7 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew. Zimmerman also surrendered his passport.

Zimmerman had to put up 10 percent, or $15,000, to make bail. His father had indicated he might take out a second mortgage.

Zimmerman worked at a mortgage risk-management company at the time of the shooting and his wife is in nursing school. A website was set up to collect donations for Zimmerman's defense fund. It is unclear how much has been raised.

Bail is not unheard of in second-degree murder cases, and legal experts had predicted it would be granted for Zimmerman because of his ties to the community, because he turned himself in after he was charged last week, and because he has never been convicted of a serious crime.

Earlier Sunday, Zimmerman's attorney was working to secure the money for bail and a safe place for Zimmerman to stay. But residents in Sanford, where Martin was killed, didn't expect a ruckus once Zimmerman was released.

City commissioners said they hadn't received calls from nervous residents. Protesters didn't show up outside the jail. And talk at one local coffee shop seldom focused on the case.

``It's just kind of a non-issue now,'' said Michele Church, a server at Mel's Family Diner. ``That's pretty much all anybody in Sanford wanted, was an arrest, so it could be sorted out in the court system.''

Zimmerman was fitted with an electronic device when he was released Sunday, according to a statement from the Seminole County Sheriff's Office.

About a half-dozen photographers and cameramen camped outside the Sanford jail Sunday, focused on the door marked ``Bonds Rooms,'' where other people who had been arrested and released on bail exited. Zimmerman had entered the jail about a week earlier after more than a month of nationwide protests calling for his arrest.

A spokeswoman for the Seminole County Sheriff's Office declined to release any information about whether they were increasing patrols or security.

Defense attorneys for other high-profile clients who awaited trial on bail have said Zimmerman should leave Florida and refrain from going out in public. Sanford residents say they aren't expecting to see him around the neighborhood anytime soon.

``They've already said they're going to move him to a safe place,'' Church said. ``Everyone has calmed down. That's all anyone in Sanford wanted, an arrest.''

Meanwhile, Martin's parents published a ``Card of Thanks'' in The Miami Herald obituary page Sunday. The note says Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin express their appreciation for all the public's support since their son's death. The notice includes a photograph of Trayvon Martin dressed in a hooded sweat shirt, similar to one he was wearing the evening he was killed.

``Words will never express how your love, support and prayers lifted our spirits and continue to give us the strength to march on,'' the letter says.



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