George Zimmerman Released from Jail; Estranged Wife Serves Divorce Papers in Court

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  • SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — George Zimmerman is once again a free man after an arrest on criminal charges — but his freedom carries conditions.

    The former neighborhood watch volunteer who was acquitted in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin earlier this year was released from jail Tuesday pending arraignment on the latest charges against him: aggravated assault, battery and criminal mischief.

    Zimmerman was released on the condition that he wear an electronic monitor, keep his distance from guns, and stay away from the girlfriend who accused him of trying to choke her and then a week later pointing a shotgun at her. His bond was set at $9,000.

    Zimmerman’s arrest is the latest of several brushes he has had with the law following his acquittal in Martin’s death, a case that drew worldwide attention as it sparked nationwide debates about race and self-defense laws.

    The choking accusation was disclosed for the first time by a prosecutor at Zimmerman’s first appearance Tuesday before a judge. Zimmerman’s girlfriend, 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.

    “He doesn’t appear to be a danger to himself or a danger to anybody else,” said public defender Daniel Megaro.

    Zimmerman, 30, wore gray jail garments and handcuffs during the hearing and spoke only when answering yes or no to the judge.

    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.

    Judge Schott 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 February 2012 fatal shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin. The Justice Department has been investigating whether to file civil rights charges against Zimmerman related to that case. A department spokesman said Tuesday that it would announce its decision soon.

    Zimmerman revealed in an affidavit for hiring public defenders that he has at least $2 million in debts and no income. He said he had less than $150 in cash on hand.

    Public defender Jeff Dowdy said Zimmerman’s family has been supporting him financially.

    “I would think it would be difficult for George Zimmerman to get a job in central Florida,” he said.

    Zimmerman has previously used a website to raise money for his legal and living expenses, including $95,000 spent on bail in the Trayvon Martin case. The site also says tens of thousands of dollars were spent on living expenses and security.

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