November 19, 2013

George Zimmerman released from jail after court hearing

A judge sets bond at $9,000 on charges he pointed a shotgun at his new girlfriend and forced her out of the home.

By Mike Schneider
The Associated Press

SANFORD, Fla. – George Zimmerman's girlfriend said he tried to choke her about a week ago during an altercation that was not initially reported to police, a prosecutor told a judge Tuesday during Zimmerman's first court appearance on domestic violence-related charges.

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George Zimmerman answers questions from a Seminole circuit judge as public defender Daniel Megaro listens, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, in Sanford, Fla. during a first-appearance hearing on charges including aggravated assault stemming from a fight with his girlfriend. Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges earlier this year in the fatal shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin in a case that drew worldwide attention.

AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool

click image to enlarge

George Zimmerman, rear, acquitted in the high-profile killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, listens as his lead attorney Jeff Dowdy speaks in court Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, in Sanford, Fla., during Zimmerman’s hearing on charges including aggravated assault stemming from a fight with his girlfriend. Looking on are his defense counsel Daniel Megaro, left, and Jeff Dowdy.

AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool

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Samantha Scheibe feared for her life because Zimmerman mentioned suicide and said he "had nothing to lose," according to Assistant State Attorney Lymary Munoz.

After the hearing, Zimmerman's public defenders said he did not appear to be suicidal and expressed confidence he would be acquitted of any wrongdoing in Monday's domestic dispute.

Hours later, Zimmerman was released from jail after posting $9,000 bond. He was seen walking out of the jail smiling and getting into a car.

Judge Frederic Schott ordered him to stay away from Scheibe's house, wear a monitoring device and refrain from contact with her. He was forbidden from possessing guns or ammunition or travelling outside Florida.

Zimmerman has been charged with aggravated assault, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. He also has been charged with battery and criminal mischief, both misdemeanors. An arraignment was set for Jan. 7.

The judge said Zimmerman's previous brushes with the law were not a factor in the conditions he imposed, but he did cite the new allegation of choking as a reason for the bond amount.

Earlier this year, Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in the fatal shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin in a case that drew worldwide attention. The Justice Department has been investigating whether to file civil rights charges against Zimmerman related to Martin's death, and a department spokesman said Tuesday that it would announce its decision soon.

Zimmerman, 30, wore gray jail garments and handcuffs during the hearing and spoke only when answering yes or no to the judge.

Public defender Jeff Dowdy said Zimmerman's family has been supporting him financially.

"I would think it would be difficult for George Zimmerman to get a job in central Florida," he said.

In an affidavit filed Tuesday, Zimmerman asked for a public defense, saying he has liabilities and debts of at least $2 million and no income. He said he had less than $150 in cash on hand.

Dowdy and another public defender, Daniel Megaro, said Zimmerman was not suicidal.

"He doesn't appear to be a danger to himself or a danger to anybody else," Megaro said.

Zimmerman has previously used a website to raise money for his legal and living expenses, including $95,000 spent on bail in the Martin case. The site also says tens of thousands of dollars were spent on living expenses and security.

The most recent posting on the site, weeks before Zimmerman's acquittal, said the fund ran out of money in late May but raised tens of thousands more after public requests for help.

A link to donate via PayPal did not appear to be working Tuesday.

In this latest scuffle, both Zimmerman and his girlfriend called 911 and provided dueling descriptions to dispatchers about the argument at the home she rented where Zimmerman was also staying.

Scheibe accused him in the emergency call of pointing a gun at her, smashing a coffee table and then pushing her outside. Zimmerman also called dispatchers, denied pointing a gun at her and blamed her for the broken table.

The girlfriend told deputies the ordeal started with a verbal argument and that she asked Zimmerman to leave the house. Her account in the arrest report says he began packing his belongings, including a shotgun and an assault rifle. She says she began putting his things in the living room and outside the house, and he became upset.

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