September 10, 2013

iPad video could be key in George Zimmerman case

The Associated Press

LAKE MARY, Fla. — Police investigating a domestic dispute between George Zimmerman and his estranged wife said Tuesday they were confident they would be able to get video from her broken iPad, and the evidence will help them determine if charges should be filed.

click image to enlarge

George Zimmerman, right, is escorted to a home by a Lake Mary police officer, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, in Lake Mary, Fla., after a domestic incident in the neighborhood where Zimmerman and his wife Shellie had lived during his murder trial. Zimmerman's wife says on a 911 call that her estranged husband punched her father in the nose, grabbed an iPad out of her hand and smashed it and threatened them both with a gun. Zimmerman was recently found not guilty for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Police believe the mobile device captured video of Monday's dispute at the Lake Mary house where the Zimmermans had been living. Shellie Zimmerman told authorities he smashed it to pieces, but the former neighborhood watch volunteer said she hit him with hit. Police said it was examined at a crime lab, and the chances of them being able to watch the video were "outstanding," but it wasn't clear when that might happen.

"As of right now, we're waiting on the iPad as the last piece of the puzzle," Lake Mary police spokesman Zach Hudson said.

Without the video or some other piece of independent evidence, legal experts said it will be hard to build a case because Shellie Zimmerman changed her story about her husband threatening her with a gun and decided not to press charges.

"I think it's severely limited if they can't get anything from an eyewitness or video," said Randy McCLean, a former prosecutor who now practices criminal defense and family law in central Florida.

Shellie Zimmerman, 26, had moved out of the house last month but stopped by with her father Monday to gather some remaining items. Shellie Zimmerman's father owns the house with his wife.

A short time later, Zimmerman arrived with his friends, Hudson said.

"That's when they started taking video of one party taking this item and another party taking that item and that's how this developed," Hudson said.

Hudson didn't know exactly what items started the fight.

Shellie Zimmerman called 911, saying her estranged husband was in his truck and threatening her and her father with a gun. She also said her husband punched her father in the nose. Hours later, she told police she hadn't seen a gun.

Police said no gun was ever found and the former couple blamed each other for being the aggressor.

Hudson said as many as seven people were at the house — friends of the Zimmermans — and they all have been questioned by investigators. Hudson said they didn't see what happened and footage from the house's surveillance cameras was inconclusive.

Shellie Zimmerman's father and Zimmerman "put hands on each other" but there were no injuries and the father doesn't want to press charges either, Hudson said.

Florida law allows police officers to arrest someone for domestic violence without the consent of the victim.

When asked if George or Shellie Zimmerman could be charged, Hudson said: "As of right now, it could be either one or it could be no one."

Also Tuesday, police released a dash cam video showing George Zimmerman being handcuffed after the dispute. In the video, officers ordered Zimmerman to put his hands up and drop to his knees. One officer approaches with his gun drawn while another handcuffs Zimmerman.

His attorney, Mark O'Mara, said on Monday his client did nothing wrong and the dispute was typical for a couple going through a divorce. On Tuesday, O'Mara said he was not going to represent George Zimmerman in this matter.

"I've come to know them as a family, and it's not a good idea to get in between them," O'Mara said.

Police investigators will turn over all their information to prosecutors, who will then make the decision to file charges or not, said David Hill, an Orlando area defense attorney.

"If nobody is going to cooperate, I don't think anything is going to happen," Hill said.

As of Tuesday, the State Attorney's Office hasn't yet received information on the case, spokeswoman Lynne Bumpus Hooper said in an email.

Shellie Zimmerman's attorney, Kelly Sims, didn't return a phone call or email Tuesday.

Shellie Zimmerman filed for divorce last week. She and her husband separated a month after he was acquitted July 13 in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, an Orlando suburb less than 5 miles from Lake Mary.

Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense when he shot Martin in February 2012. He wasn't charged until 44 days after the shooting, leading to protests nationwide from people who believed he should've been immediately arrested.

Demonstrations were organized again after his acquittal. Federal authorities are now reviewing the case the see if Martin's civil rights were violated.

Shellie Zimmerman was convicted of perjury last month for lying about the couple's finances at her husband's bail hearing for killing Martin.

Zimmerman blames his arrest and the trial for the implosion of his marriage, O'Mara said, but he needs to be a lot more "circumspect" about what he does.

"Anything he does is going to be hyper-focused on and scrutinized," O'Mara said. "Even though I may get away with a little speeding, he can't. It's unfortunate that this is part of the fallout from a case that never should have been prosecuted and he has to deal with this forever, and certainly right now."

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