George Zimmerman, who was thrust into the national spotlight after he shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, was granted bail on Tuesday in connection with a domestic violence case involving his girlfriend.
Seminole County Judge Fred Schott set bail at $9,000, with several restrictions including not being allowed to have any guns. The usual bail in this type of case is $4,500, but the judge set a higher amount because the girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, indicated to authorities that Monday’s dispute was the second time she had been the victim of domestic violence by Zimmerman.
According to Assistant State Atty. Lymary Munoz, the girlfriend said Zimmerman tried to strangle her about a week ago. The state had sought bail in the amount of $50,000, arguing that Scheibe said she feared for her safety because of the incidents. The case of choking was not reported to authorities at the time.
Wearing a gray jail jumper and his hands cuffed in front of him, Zimmerman made his first appearance in the current case Tuesday. He was arrested on Monday and held on the domestic violence-related allegations of aggravated assault, battery and criminal mischief for pointing a shotgun at Scheibe in her home that he shared in Apopka, Fla.
“I do find probable cause for all three allegations,” Schott said.
Zimmerman is scheduled to next appear in court on Jan. 7, when he will be formally arraigned, said the judge, who added the case is being handled the same way any such case would be dealt with. Judge Schott said he decided on the higher bail amount, based on the incidents of aggravated assault, which is a felony. Zimmerman also faces two misdemeanors, he said.
Zimmerman, who has said he was indigent after his almost two years of legal troubles, is being represented by the public defender’s office. After the hearing, Jeff Dowdy, the chief of the public defender's office in Sanford, Fla., told reporters that he was hopeful Zimmerman will be released by Wednesday morning.
“Of course he's sorry about what happened,” Dowdy said, but added that Zimmerman is “maintaining his innocence.”
Megaro, another public defender representing Zimmerman, told reporters at the nationally televised news conference that he was confident that Zimmerman would be acquitted.
In addition to the no-guns condition, Schott ordered that Zimmerman have no contact with the girlfriend, must wear a monitoring device and not be allowed to travel outside of the state. Zimmerman can send someone, accompanied by authorities, to retrieve whatever possessions he has at her house.
Zimmerman, 30, is the former neighborhood watch volunteer who was charged and acquitted of murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, 17, in Feb. 2012. The case ignited racial passions across the nation because Martin was black and unarmed as he returned from a convenience store where he had bought candy and a soft drink.
A jury of six women had accepted Zimmerman’s claim that he shot the teenager in self-defense when the pair fought.
In that case, Zimmerman was represented by two private attorneys, Mark O'Mara and Don West.
Since the July verdict, Zimmerman has had a number of scrapes with the law. Monday’s dispute was Zimmerman's second domestic dispute involving police since he became a national name.
In September, Zimmerman and his estranged wife were involved in a domestic dispute days after Shellie Zimmerman indicated she wanted a divorce. She was living in Lake Mary, Fla., and described to police how Zimmerman allegedly assaulted her father and threatened her and her father with a gun.
Lake Mary police recently said no charges would be filed against George or Shellie Zimmerman because there was not enough evidence.
Zimmerman also has been pulled over at least three times for traffic stops since his acquittal.
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