The leader of a prominent advocacy group for domestic violence victims sharply criticized the recent conduct of George Zimmerman’s attorney, Jayne Weintraub, and expressed concern for the safety of the alleged victim. Rita Smith, the Executive Director of the National Coalition To Prevent Domestic Violence suggested that Zimmerman’s girlfriend may have been “manipulated” into recanting her allegations against Zimmerman.
Weintraub recently submitted a motion requesting the terms of George Zimmerman’s bail be modified to allow contact with the alleged victim, his girlfriend Samantha Scheibe. On November 18, Zimmerman was arrested and charged with aggravated assault against Scheibe. At that time, she told the police that Zimmerman “cocked and pointed a shotgun at [her], shattered a glass-top table, then pushed her out of the house and barricaded himself inside.” She also told authorities that, in a separate incident a week and a half prior to the arrest, “he tried to choke her.” Weintraub’s motion asserts “it was the police, not Mr. Zimmerman, who intimidated her.”
Attached to Weintraub’s motion was a signed affidavit from Scheibe, recanting her story to the police and declaring that she wants to “be with George.” The Weintraub motion also revealed that she had been in communication with Scheibe regarding the matter.
Smith called Weintraub’s conduct in the matter “not appropriate.” She said that Weintraub’s involvement in submitting the affidavit to the court raised the prospect that Scheibe had been “manipulated” or “coerced” into recanting. Smith said that, if Scheibe approached Weintraub with a desire to recant her story, she should have referred her back to the State’s Attorney or to her personal attorney. It’s Weintraub’s role to prioritize the interests of Zimmerman, Smith said, so she is not a position to advise his alleged victim. Smith said that, as a victims rights advocate, she is concerned for Scheibe’s safety.
The affidavit submitted by Scheibe is written in the first person, but the frequent use of legal jargon suggests it was not written by her alone. For example Ms. Scheibe, who is not an attorney, writes “I make this decision, freely, knowingly and voluntarily, without any intimidation or undue influences. Neither George Zimmerman nor anyone on his behalf has threatened me or coerced me or subjected me to any undue influences.” (Her affidavit, however, does not state that she has not been in contact with Zimmerman, despite the no contact order that was the condition of her bail.)
Smith says that Scheibe’s decision to recant her story and stop cooperating with the prosecutors is not uncommon in domestic violence situations. Even without her cooperation, prosecutors could move forward with the case if they believe they have enough evidence to get a conviction. Evidence still available to them includes the original 911 call, Scheibe’s original statements to the police and any physical evidence collected from Scheibe’s home, where the incident occurred.
An email to Weintraub requesting comment was not immediately returned.