Former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was indicted Saturday on an aggravated assault charge in connection with a domestic assault incident. The 31-year-old became well-known to the public in 2013 after he was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin.
Police in Lake Mary, Florida, arrested Zimmerman at approximately 10 p.m. Friday night. His attorney, Donald West, says the charges stem from a report that his client threw a wine bottle at his girlfriend earlier this week. Police were informed of the alleged assault by the girlfriend when they performed a traffic stop on Monday. During the stop, she told police that she and her boyfriend had just been involved in a domestic disturbance.
Zimmerman and West appeared in the Seminole County court on Saturday morning. The sheriff’s office has confirmed that Zimmerman was released after his court appearance on a bond of $5,000. Judge John Galluzzo also ordered him to keep out of the county of Volusia and to surrender any guns he currently owns. If convicted of aggravated assault, West says his client could receive a prison sentence of up to five years or be fined $5,000. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 17.
West was one of the attorneys on the original team of lawyers who successfully defended Zimmerman during his trial for shooting 17-year-old Martin. Zimmerman had been patrolling his neighborhood in Sanford, Florida, as part of the neighborhood watch program when he shot and killed Martin in what he claimed was self-defense.
The notorious Floridian has had multiple run-ins with law enforcement since his acquittal in 2013 in the death of Martin. He was arrested in Florida in November 2013 after his girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, claimed that he had aimed a gun at her while they were arguing. Prosecutors were forced to drop the charges, which included battery, aggravated assault and criminal mischief, one month later when Scheibe withdrew her claim against her boyfriend.
The estranged wife of Zimmerman, Shellie Zimmerman, accused him of breaking an iPad during an argument which occured after Shellie had filed for divorce. Although she told the dispatcher that he was armed with a gun, she retracted that statement later and said that he had been unarmed. Due to lack of evidence, no charges were filed.
Texas and Florida police have also stopped the notorious Floridian for speeding since his acquittal. In addition, he was accused in September of telling a fellow motorist that he would kill him. Police say that Zimmerman said to the man, “Do you know who I am?” No charges were filed in the case and neither man was arrested.
Before the recent spate of protests and unrest following the shooting of unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, Zimmerman’s acquittal in the death of Martin highlighted the racial divide in the United States and made international news of the “stand your ground” law in Florida. The law does not require that a shooter retreat and attempt to avoid a situation before applying deadly force.
Zimmerman filed a lawsuit against NBC Universal for libel after the network aired an edited recording of a phone call that he placed to police prior to his shooting of Martin. Although his lawyers claimed that NBC maliciously edited the recording in order to portray their client as a racist, a judge in Florida ruled against that claim in June.
By Jennifer Pfalz