Tuesday, November 19, 2013
SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — George Zimmerman goes before a judge Tuesday on charges related to a domestic dispute with his girlfriend, yet another outburst involving allegations he used a firearm to threaten and another case of conflicting versions of what happened.
In this latest scuffle, both Zimmerman and the woman he was arguing with each called 911 and provide dueling descriptions to police dispatchers about the argument.
Zimmerman's 27-year-old girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, accused him in a 911 call of pointing a gun at her, smashing a coffee table and then pushing her outside. Zimmerman also called dispatchers, flatly denying pointing a gun at her and blaming her for the broken table.
The facts surrounding Zimmerman's fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin were equally murky, and Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges. Relatives of the black 17-year-old, who was unarmed, accused Zimmerman of racially profiling the teen and instigating a fight. Zimmerman said he shot the teen in self-defense. That case sparked nationwide debates about race and self-defense laws.
In September, just roughly months after his acquittal, Zimmerman was accused by his estranged wife of smashing an iPad during an argument at the home they had shared. Shellie Zimmerman initially told a dispatcher her husband had a gun, though she later said he was not armed. No charges were ever filed against either person because of a lack of evidence.
Zimmerman has been charged with aggravated assault, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison if convicted. He also has been charged with battery and criminal mischief, both misdemeanors.
Scheibe 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. At that point, the report says, he took the shotgun out of its case.
Zimmerman told his girlfriend to leave and smashed a pair of her sunglasses as she walked toward the front door, the report says. Scheibe told deputies he pushed her out of the house when she got close to the door.
"You point your gun at my fricking face," Scheibe is heard telling Zimmerman on a 911 call. "Get out of my house. Do not push me out of my house. Please get out of my house."
Seconds later, she told the dispatcher, "You kidding me? He pushed me out of my house and locked me out. ... He knows how to do this. He knows how to play this game."
Moments later, Zimmerman called 911 from inside the barricaded house to tell his side of the story.
"I have a girlfriend, who for lack of a better word, has gone crazy on me," Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman then said he never pulled a gun on his girlfriend and that it was she who smashed a table at the home they shared. He also told the dispatcher that Scheibe was pregnant with their child and that she had decided she would raise the child on her own. When Zimmerman started to leave, "she got mad," he said.
Seminole County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Dennis Lemma said at a news conference that Scheibe wasn't pregnant. He also said Zimmerman was compliant and unarmed when deputies came to the house.
At Zimmerman's first court appearance Tuesday, a judge may consider bail. If so, the judge will consider the usual factors: Is Zimmerman a flight risk? Does he pose a threat to the community? Will he intimidate potential witnesses? But the judge also can consider Zimmerman's prior brushes with the law, if he wants, said Orlando defense attorney David Hill.
"You can consider anything at the bond hearing," Hill said. "If I were the judge, I'd be concerned about the presence of guns in Mr. Zimmerman's life."
The arrest was the latest legal problem for Zimmerman since he was acquitted last summer of criminal charges in the fatal shooting of Martin. Zimmerman, 30, who identifies himself as Hispanic, has said he shot the 17-year-old to defend himself during a fight in February 2012 inside a gated community in Sanford, just outside Orlando. Federal authorities are now reviewing the case the see if Martin's civil rights were violated.
In September, Zimmerman and his estranged wife were involved in a domestic dispute just days after Shellie Zimmerman filed divorce papers, but police later said no charges were filed against either of them because of a lack of evidence.
Zimmerman has also been pulled over three times for traffic stops since his acquittal. He was ticketed for doing 60 mph in a 45 mph zone in Lake Mary, Fla., in September and was given a warning by a state trooper along Interstate 95 for having a tag cover and windows that were too darkly tinted. He was also stopped near Dallas in July and given a warning for speeding.
In 2005, Zimmerman had to take anger management courses after he was accused of attacking an undercover officer who was trying to arrest Zimmerman's friend.
Later that year, Zimmerman's former fiancee filed for a restraining order against him, alleging domestic violence. Zimmerman responded by requesting a restraining order against her. Both requests were granted. No criminal charges were filed.
Associated Press writers Kyle Hightower in Orlando, Fla., and Suzette Laboy in Miami contributed to this report.