Bail for George Zimmerman set at $9,000 in domestic violence case
(CNN) — A Florida judge on Tuesday set bail for George Zimmerman at $9,000 and ordered a number of conditions for his freedom — including that he not possess weapons — while he awaits trial on charges he pointed a shotgun at his girlfriend.
Zimmerman, arrested Monday at his girlfriend’s Apopka home, four months after he was acquitted of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin, might post bail Wednesday morning after all the conditions for his release are arranged, a public defender representing him said.
Zimmerman said little as a judge, during Zimmerman’s first appearance Tuesday afternoon in Seminole County court, said he found probable cause for Zimmerman’s arrest on a felony charge of aggravated assault and misdemeanor counts of domestic violence battery and criminal mischief. Zimmerman’s arraignment has been scheduled for January 7.
A prosecutor revealed a new allegation against Zimmerman while trying to argue for a higher bail — that Zimmerman tried to choke his girlfriend a week and a half before Monday’s alleged shotgun incident, and that Zimmerman had talked about suicide.
Assistant State Attorney Lymary Munoz argued for $50,000 bail, saying that new information should heighten concern for the accuser’s safety, though the alleged incident hadn’t been reported to police.
The new allegation is not reflected in the preliminary charges. But Judge Fred Schott cited the choking accusation when he put the bail at $9,000, saying it prompted him to set it higher than the $4,900 requested by the defense.
Jeff Dowdy and Daniel Megaro, the public defenders representing Zimmerman, told reporters afterward that they hadn’t known of the choking allegation previously.
“That was news to us,” Dowdy said. “… That was not contained in the arrest report, and that’s the first we’ve heard about it.”
Schott put conditions on Zimmerman’s bail: That he cannot go to two Florida addresses; he cannot have contact with the accuser, Samantha Scheibe; he cannot possess weapons; he must wear a monitoring device; and he cannot travel outside Florida.
The judge initially said Zimmerman could return to one of the banned addresses with law enforcement to retrieve his belongings, but later — at Munoz’s urging — reversed that allowance, saying a third party could get the belongings instead.
Megaro told reporters he was confident Zimmerman would be acquitted. Dowdy said Zimmerman would post bail perhaps by Wednesday, “regroup and try to address the charges.”
“He’s maintained his innocence, I’ll tell you that,” Dowdy said
Megaro was asked about Scheibe’s alleged claims that Zimmerman talked about suicide.
“He’s back in jail. Obviously that causes a certain amount of anxiety and stress on somebody. I would not characterize him as what the state attorney has said, meaning he’s suicidal and volatile. We did not get that impression from him,” Megaro said.
Zimmerman claims dispute arose over alleged pregnancy
Zimmerman was arrested Monday afternoon at Scheibe’s Apopka home after she called 911, said Dennis Lemma, chief deputy with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.
Zimmerman told police the argument erupted after he tried to leave because Scheibe was pregnant and wanted to raise their child by herself, though police say Scheibe disputed the account.
“She told me it was better if we co-parented and she raised the child on her own,” Zimmerman said to a 911 dispatcher in a separate call. “I said, ‘Are you sure this is what you want to do?’ She said, ‘Yes.'”
Zimmerman continued, “As soon as I started packing up my stuff to leave, she just completely changed.” Asked to elaborate, Zimmerman said he wanted to leave amicably, but Scheibe “just started smashing stuff, taking stuff that belonged to me and throwing it outside, throwing it out of her room, throwing it all over the place.
“I guess she thought I was going to argue with her, but she’s pregnant. I’m not going to put her through that type of stress.”
In a question-and-answer session after Monday’s news conference, Lemma told reporters, “At this time, the victim has disclosed to us that she is not pregnant.”
Differing 911 calls
According to a police report about the incident, Scheibe said that after an argument, Zimmerman broke a table with a shotgun and then pointed it at her “for a minute.”
Scheibe called 911 at 12:30 p.m. ET, Lemma said.
On a 911 call recording released by police, a woman can be heard telling authorities: “He’s inside my house breaking all my (things) because I asked him to leave.”
The woman then says to someone at the house, “I’m doing this again? You just broke my glass table. You just broke my sunglasses and you put your gun in my freaking face and told me to get the (expletive) out.”
A man is heard telling her to calm down, but then she tells the dispatcher that the man just pushed her out of the house and locked the door.
In his 911 call, Zimmerman says that his girlfriend was, “for lack of a better term, going crazy on me” and throwing his things out. He says the woman is outside with police.
Asked why he is calling, Zimmerman says, “I just want everyone to know the truth.”
He says he never pulled a firearm and that it is in a bag, locked. He says she was the one who broke the table.
When deputies arrived at the house, Scheibe gave them a key. When they pushed open the door — which was blocked by several small pieces of furniture — they found Zimmerman, who was sitting and unarmed, Lemma said. He was passive and cooperative, Lemma said.
The sheriff’s office was seeking a search warrant to look for two guns deputies believed were inside the home, he said. According to the police report, Zimmerman had locked up the guns before police arrived.
Scheibe ‘in a safe place,’ mother says
Scheibe’s mother, Hope Scheibe, said on Monday, “My daughter is doing good, and she’s in a safe place.”
Scheibe and Zimmerman have been friends for 11 years, and Zimmerman has been living with her for the past several months, her mother said.
Zimmerman’s estranged wife, Shellie Zimmerman, filed for divorce on September 5. Days after the filing, Shellie Zimmerman called 911 and alleged that her husband had threatened her — one of several brushes that George Zimmerman has had with law enforcement since he was acquitted in July of murder and manslaughter in the 2012 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.
Recent contact with authorities
Police detained George Zimmerman on September 9 after his estranged wife told a 911 dispatcher that he had threatened her and her father at her father’s house in Lake Mary, Florida. But earlier this month, Lake Mary police said no charges would be filed, saying there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the case.
In late September, Shellie Zimmerman told NBC’s Matt Lauer on the “Today” show that she had doubts about her husband’s innocence in the Martin case.
Zimmerman also has been stopped for speeding twice since his July acquittal. He was pulled over the first time in Forney, Texas, in July and told the police officer he had a concealed weapon permit and a gun in his glove compartment. The officer wrote on his incident report that he gave Zimmerman a verbal warning.
Zimmerman was pulled over in early September going 60 mph in a 45-mph zone in Lake Mary and received a $256 ticket. He was not carrying a weapon at the time.
Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the Sanford neighborhood where Zimmerman and Martin’s father lived in February 2012. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, had a confrontation with the unarmed African-American teen after calling police to report a suspicious person, and he said he shot Martin, 17, in self-defense.
Zimmerman was acquitted by a six-person jury in July on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
The high-profile case sparked a heated nationwide discussion of race as well as debate over Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
His attorney in the murder trial, Mark O’Mara, no longer represents him.
Zimmerman’s public defenders said Tuesday they were appointed to the case because Zimmerman said he couldn’t afford an attorney.
CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin, Kim Segal, David Mattingly, John Couwels, and HLNtv.com’s Graham Winch contributed to this report.
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