George Zimmerman's latest brush with the criminal-justice system ended Wednesday, when State Attorney Phil Archer announced that Zimmerman will not face charges in a domestic incident last month.
Archer's decision came days after the named victim, Zimmerman's then-girlfriend Samantha Scheibe, signed an affidavit recanting the allegations that led to Zimmerman's arrest Nov. 18 at the home they shared.
"I do not want George Zimmerman charged. I make this decision freely, knowingly and voluntarily, without any intimidation, coercion or undue influences," Scheibe said in her affidavit.
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In a statement Wednesday, Archer said the Seminole County Sheriff's Office had probable cause to arrest Zimmerman after Scheibe called 911 and reported Zimmerman was armed and behaving threateningly.
"However, upon reviewing the recent affidavit ... and taking into account the conflicting statements about what occurred, the failure to cooperate with the ongoing investigation, and a lack of any other corroborating evidence or witnesses, there is no reasonable likelihood of successful prosecution," said Archer, the top prosecutor for Seminole and Brevard counties.
In her call to police, Scheibe reported that Zimmerman "was in my house breaking all my [stuff] because I asked him to leave. He has his ... gun breaking all of my stuff right now."
Deputies said she also claimed Zimmerman had pointed a shotgun at her. That led to his arrest on suspicion of aggravated assault with a firearm, but before prosecutors could file formal charges, Scheibe's affidavit changed the equation.
"George never pointed a gun at or toward my face in a threatening manner," said Scheibe's affidavit, which was signed Friday and accompanied a motion by his defense attorney to allow Zimmerman and Scheibe to see each other.
"I want to be with George," Scheibe said.
In its statement Wednesday, Archer's office stressed that domestic violence is a matter "of great concern" but said, in light of the affidavit, that it could not meet its burden against Zimmerman beyond a reasonable doubt.
Carol Wick, CEO of the domestic-violence agency Harbor House of Central Florida, said it's all too common for domestic cases to end because the victim recants or doesn't want to testify: "That pressure to recant is just immense."
For victims in domestic-violence cases, the perpetrators "know where you live, they know where you shop, they know where you work ... this is somebody who knows everything about you, and that makes it scarier," Wick said.
In these cases, Wick said it's important for law enforcement to "have really good collection of evidence." That way, "if the victim is intimidated, you don't have to worry about … putting them in that position," she said.
After prosecutors declined to file charges, Zimmerman was released from his bond conditions. That means he can once again possess guns, and he'll no longer have to stay away from Scheibe or wear a GPS device.
Zimmerman's South Florida attorney, Jayne Weintraub, credited Archer and Assistant State Attorney Christopher White, who she said did the right thing in light of the Scheibe affidavit.
"They discussed with me their concerns; I discussed with them our view ... that they would not be able to have a sustainable case," she said.
Weintraub said she hoped Zimmerman would be able to return to a normal life.
Asked whether Zimmerman planned to continue his relationship with Scheibe, the defense lawyer called that "a personal decision."
"For George, I think he has to try and put this whole sequence of nightmares behind him and go forward," Weintraub said. "He's young, he's smart and he's got his whole life ahead of him."
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