Zimmerman freed from Florida jail after arrest for assault

Barbara Liston
Zimmerman freed from Florida jail after arrest for assault

By Barbara Liston

SANFORD, Florida (Reuters) - George Zimmerman, who was acquitted last summer in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, was released from jail on Tuesday after his arrest for an incident in which he is alleged to have pulled a shotgun on his girlfriend.

Zimmerman was released by sheriff's deputies from a jail in Sanford, Florida, after a court hearing in which Seminole County Judge Fred Schott said he found probable cause for Monday's arrest and set bail at $9,000.

The judge set January 7 as the date for Zimmerman's next appearance in court on charges stemming from a domestic dispute on Monday, when he allegedly pointed a shotgun at his girlfriend in her central Florida home.

Zimmerman, 30, appeared in court in a short-sleeved green Seminole County prison uniform after spending the night in the John E. Polk Correctional Facility. He faces charges including aggravated assault with a firearm, a felony, and two misdemeanors - domestic violence and criminal mischief.

If found guilty, he could face from three to 15 years in jail, according to David Weinstein, a Miami attorney and former state prosecutor.

Judge Schott barred Zimmerman from all contact with his girlfriend and possessing any weapons or ammunition, pending his return to court in January. He also banned Zimmerman from any travel outside Florida and ordered him to wear an electronic monitoring device for the duration of his release on bond.

The girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, 27, told police that at one point during their verbal altercation he grabbed a shotgun and pointed it at her, broke a glass table and locked her out of the house.

Zimmerman then barricaded the door with furniture, police said.

Scheibe, who was unhurt in the incident, told a police dispatcher that Zimmerman was in the house with four weapons - a Kel-Tec shotgun, an AR-15-style assault rifle and two handguns.

Zimmerman also called 911, telling the operator his girlfriend "has gone crazy on me" and was outside. When asked why he was calling 911, he replied: "I just want everyone to know the truth." He said he did not use a firearm.

Assistant State Attorney Lymary Munoz said in court that Scheibe was afraid of Zimmerman and alleged he had tried to choke her about a week and a half ago, in an incident she had failed to report to the police.

Munoz also said Scheibe told her that Zimmerman had talked about committing suicide.

Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch guard, was acquitted on July 13 of all charges stemming from his killing of Martin in February 2012. A jury found that he shot Martin in self defense during a struggle, as the 17-year-old walked through a gated community in Sanford where he was staying as a house guest.

The shooting ignited a nationwide debate about race, gun control and self-defense laws and prompted widespread claims of bias in the U.S. justice system.

Since his acquittal, Zimmerman has had several run-ins with law enforcement officials. He has twice been stopped for speeding, once in Texas and also in Florida.

In September, Zimmerman was questioned by police after his estranged wife called 911, saying he had threatened her with a gun. He was not charged in that incident, which occurred a week after she filed for divorce.

(Editing by David Adams, Tom Brown and Gunna Dickson)