Since George Zimmerman was exonerated of all wrong doing in the lawful killing of Trayvon Martin, he has been accused of domestic violence by both his estranged wife Shellie Zimmerman and girlfriend Samantha Scheibe. Whist Shellie retracted her allegation that Zimmerman threatened her and her father with a firearm when confronted with video evidence that proved otherwise and wisely declined to press charges, there was also another prior, albeit unsubstantiated, allegation of domestic violence made against Zimmerman in August 2005 by Veronica Zuazo. No criminal charges were brought but both Zuazo and Zimmerman were both granted civil restraining orders against each other with no finding of fault.
There are a lot of people who want to believe Zimmerman was guilty of domestic violence — the same people who erroneously believed he was at fault for killing Martin in self-defense — but until Scheibe’s allegation there have been no criminal charges filled. Scheibe did file criminal charges so her allegations are not so easy to dismiss. Initially I was inclined to believe that they were true and that Zimmerman had threatened her with a shotgun. However, after I heard both emergency calls I had my doubts. Obviously there was a domestic but Scheibe sounded too aggressive and confrontational for someone who had just been threatened with a firearm. Whereas Zimmerman sounded meek, frightened and confused. Moreover, she had no injuries, so there was no evidence of battery. Then it was revealed that she was doing a kiss and tell. She had been trying to flog the lurid details of her life with Zimmerman to the national media. Shortly after failing to find a buyer, she makes this report of domestic violence, which doesn’t disprove her account but does seriously damaged her credibility. Then of course she retracted her evidence and claimed that Zimmerman didn’t point a shotgun at her.
Domestic violence complainants retracting their evidence is not uncommon. However, that in itself was no obstacle to a prosecution. Zimmerman had been charged with aggravated assault with a weapon/ domestic violence (784.021 1a), battery/ domestic violence (784.03 1a1) and criminal mischief (806.13 1b1). Scheibe’s retraction only applied to the aggravated assault with a weapon/ domestic violence (784.021 1a). The prosecutor could have called put as a witness in repect of all three charges and impeached her testimony with her prior video statement. According to Zimmerman’s arrest report on the 18 November 2013, Scheibe told officers that she “advised Zimmerman that she was calling the Police because she was nervous about why he pulled out the Shotgun. Zimmerman then pointed the Shotgun at Scheibe for a minute, and asked her if she really wanted to do that.” The report also says that “she was not sure whether the shotgun was loaded or not when it was pointed at her, and she was concerned for her safety.”
Assuming that was true, the prosecution would still have enough evidence to proceed, so I was surprised that Zimmerman’s defense counsel, Jayne Weintraub, was able to convince State Attorney Phil Archer and Assistant State Attorney Christopher White to drop the charges. All three lawyers agreed that the prosecution had no realistic prospect of conviction. It seemed strange but now having watched the video of Scheibe being interviewed by Deputy LaGuardia of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, it’s very apparent why the State Attorney Phil Archer and Assistant State Attorney Christopher White dropped the charges. What was said in that interview didn’t support the charges and a lot of it would have been inadmissible.
Scheibe didn’t say the gun was pointed at her for a minute, as stated on the arrest report, she said a second, which is a huge difference. She also said she thought that Zimmerman had unloaded the shotgun in the bedroom. Also LaGuardia asks Scheibe whether the manner in which Zimmerman said “do you really want to do that?” was threatening, she agreed it was but she didn’t volunteer that information. Moreover, Scheibe never says that Zimmerman verbally threatened her with violence let alone put her in fear of her life. She never says she ever thought she was going to be shot. Furthermore, when she was asked to make a physical demonstration of how the gun was pointed at her, she holds the imaginary shotgun across her body at waist level in a relaxed position with the imaginary muzzle pointing to the side. She certainly doesn’t demonstrates Zimmerman pointing the gun at her face as she suggested in her emergency call.
Scheibe also never actually suggests that Zimmerman intentionally aimed the weapon at her in her. Unintentionally pointing an unloaded shotgun in her general direction for a single second is poor muzzle discipline, but it doesn’t constitute aggravated assault. In her demonstration the muzzle would have been nearer to her vagina than her face.
LaGuardia, disgracefully, tries to get her to change her account by asking whether the firearm was held at shoulder level and then demonstrates holding an imaginary shotgun at shoulder level aiming directly at her, which is a complete distortion of what she demonstrated. She refuses to change her evidence and reiterates that Zimmerman held the firearm across his body at waist level. At which point LaGuardia should have noted the contradiction between what she has said in the emergency call and what she is saying in her video statement.
Instead, LaGuardia asks Scheibe whether she thought Zimmerman intended to harm her. She rather telling states that she doesn’t know. In fact, she concedes she wasn’t sure whether the gun was loaded but initially thought it wasn’t. She says she doesn’t know whether Zimmerman intended to use it on himself, hit her with it, or threaten her with it. The arrest report should have noted that Scheibe didn’t know whether Zimmerman intended to harm or threaten her. That would have been an accurate description of what she said.
However, the most egregious part of the interview was when Scheibe told LaGuardia that Zimmerman had choked her previously. Not only does LaGuardia suggests to her that Zimmerman might have choked her with his hands, he asked her did she have trouble breathing. She responds by saying she was making fun of Zimmerman by asking him “are you really going to do this right now?” — note the similarity between that and what she said Zimmerman said to her when he was pointing the shotgun at her — then predictably she says she couldn’t breathe, which she hadn’t previously volunteered. She then admits that she hit him after he choked her and thought that would be used against her. LaGuardia asks her, “Did you hit him out of self-defense or… anger … was it a response to choking you?”
There was no proof of physical injury to Scheibe, no independent witnesses, and Zimmerman had already suggested that Scheibe had gone crazy and thrown his things around, which she partly admitted, when Scheibe acknowledged hitting Zimmerman in a prior domestic altercation LaGuardia should have immediately stopped the interview and allowed her to speak to a lawyer. Instead, he deliberately interrupted her to prevent her from incriminating herself further and suggested to her by way of question that she was acting in self-defense. She only suggested she was acting in self-defense after LaGuardia put it to her, had he not not done so she might have said that she hit him in retaliation or that was the normal course of their relationship, and Zimmerman was likely to deny choking her.
On the basis of what Scheibe says in the interview, she isn’t accusing Zimmerman of intentionally aiming a shotgun at her. What she’s actually accusing him of amounts to pointing an unloaded shotgun in her general direction for a single second and using it to break her table, then breaking her sun glasses and locking her outside. Although, in fairness she was being aggressive and confrontational and admits to moving (more likely throwing) his things about. She also accuses him of grabbing her throat and partially choking her on an earlier occasion during an argument, in which she acknowledges hitting him.