Tuesday, February 20, 2018

New allegation made against Zimmerman

SANFORD — 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.

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 traveling 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.

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.

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