Zimmerman's Girlfriend Says He Choked Her Prior to Monday's Dispute

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 19 2013 3:12 PM

Zimmerman's Girlfriend Says He Choked Her Prior to Monday's Dispute

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George Zimmerman attends his bail hearing on Nov. 19, 2013 in Florida

Screenshot from NBC News live feed

A Florida judge granted George Zimmerman bail this afternoon, one day after the one-time neighborhood watch volunteer's latest brush with the law landed him in jail. He'll likely be released by tomorrow at the latest as he awaits his January arraignment.

The state had asked Judge Frederic Schott to set bail at $50,000, arguing that Zimmerman's girlfriend, 27-year-old Samantha Scheibe, was in fear for her life following Monday's domestic dispute—but the judge never appeared to seriously consider a request of that size. Instead he settled on $9,000, nearly twice what the public defender had suggested, and ordered Zimmerman to stay clear of Scheibe and her home, and not possess guns or ammunition while he awaits trial.

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The unexpected takeaway from the brief hearing, however, was a new allegation against Zimmerman, courtesy of his girlfriend and by way of the state prosecutor (via the Associated Press):

George Zimmerman's girlfriend said he tried to choke her about a week ago during an altercation that wasn't initially reported to police, a prosecutor told a judge Tuesday during his first court appearance on domestic violence-related charges. The prosecutor said Zimmerman's girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, was in fear for her life because Zimmerman mentioned suicide and said he "had nothing to lose." Zimmerman's public defenders said after the hearing that he didn't appear to be suicidal.

Zimmerman is charged with third-degree felony aggravated assault, which carries with it up to 5 years in prison if convicted, and a pair of misdemeanors. According to Scheibe's telling, Zimmerman pointed a shotgun at her face during yesterday's dispute, and also broke a table, pushed her out of the home and then barricaded the door with furniture. Zimmerman denies that's how things played out, using his own 911 call to tell a police dispatcher that his girlfriend went "crazy on [him]."

Monday's arrest wasn't Zimmerman's first legal trouble since he was acquitted this summer on all counts in Trayvon Martin's shooting death. In September, he and his estranged wife were involved in a domestic dispute only days after she filed divorce papers. Zimmerman was briefly taken into police custody at the scene, but was never actually arrested (despite initial reports suggesting that he had been). It's still unclear exactly how that domestic incident played out—including whether Zimmerman was armed at the time—and police never pressed charges against either due to an apparent lack of evidence.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.