By Rene Stutzman and Jeff Weiner, Orlando Sentinel
6:28 PM EST, November 19, 2013
SANFORD — A beleaguered George Zimmerman walked out of the Seminole County Jail on Tuesday, free on bail from his latest brush with the law, an ugly domestic-violence episode that has turned uglier.
Assistant State Attorney Lymary Munoz disclosed that not only had Zimmerman's girlfriend accused him of pointing a shotgun at her and breaking furniture Monday, she also told authorities that he tried to choke her a week and a half ago.
"She is in fear for her safety," Munoz told Seminole County Judge Fred Schott.
That new allegation is not part of the formal charges he faces, but Schott cited it in ordering Zimmerman to post $9,000 bail at a 1:30 p.m. hearing.
About three hours later, Zimmerman's family had raised the money, and he left the jail. It's not clear where he'll live. He's banned from returning to Samantha Scheibe's house, where he had lived since August.
Zimmerman is the 30-year-old former Neighborhood Watch volunteer acquitted in July of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford. The shooting and verdict set off demonstrations and civil-rights marches across the country and beyond.
There were no demonstrators Tuesday at the Seminole County Jail, where Zimmerman had been locked up overnight on charges of aggravated assault, a felony, and two misdemeanors: domestic-violence battery and criminal mischief.
Zimmerman was calm and showed almost no emotion during his 15-minute court hearing. The only exception was one flinch, when Schott cited the new choking allegation and said that was why he would not set bond at $4,900, the amount recommended by county guidelines.
Munoz said Scheibe, 27, had not notified authorities when it happened but that about a week and a half ago, Zimmerman had choked her.
Munoz had another dramatic disclosure: Scheibe also said that Zimmerman had recently talked about suicide.
Defense attorney Daniel Megaro met with Zimmerman at the jail before Tuesday's hearing. He and co-counsel Jeff Dowdy, both with the Public Defender's Office, said they saw no evidence that their client was volatile, suicidal or seriously mentally ill.
"Is this a stressful event for him? Probably," Megaro said. "He's very clear. He's very coherent. He understands what's going on."
Both men predicted Zimmerman would be acquitted.
"Of course he's sorry about what happened, but he's maintaining his innocence," Dowdy said, adding, "I think he's relieved. He can go home."
Schott ordered Zimmerman to stay away from Scheibe, to surrender all his guns and to wear a satellite monitor.
In the Trayvon murder case, Zimmerman was represented by $400-an-hour attorney Mark O'Mara and $350-an-hour attorney Don West.
Both put out statements Monday saying they would not represent him in the new case.
Dowdy said that Zimmerman is indigent and in $2.5 million in debt — most of which is owed to those lawyers. In court paperwork, Zimmerman wrote that he has a total of $144.
On Monday, Scheibe told Seminole County deputies that she had ordered Zimmerman to move out and he had begun to pack when he got a shotgun, cocked it, pointed it at her and broke a glass-topped table, according to his arrest report.
He then shoved her outside and locked and barricaded the door, according to Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Dennis Lemma.
While deputies were outside, banging on the door, trying to get him to come out, Zimmerman called 911 and blamed the dispute on Scheibe, whom he said had "gone crazy on me."
He said he had not pointed a gun at her and that she was the one who smashed the table.
Monday's arrest was the third known domestic-violence incident involving Zimmerman.
On Sept. 9, he was handcuffed by Lake Mary police but released after his estranged wife, Shellie, and her father accused him of threatening them with a gun while they were moving her belongings from a house the couple had shared.
Police made no arrest, saying they had no solid evidence that Zimmerman broke the law. Zimmerman had arrived at that scene with Scheibe.
Shellie Zimmerman filed for divorce in August but had not been able to find him to formally serve him notice.
The search ended Monday, when she had him served with the paperwork in jail.
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