SANFORD, Fla. - An anonymous Florida woman identified as Witness No.
9 claims she was molested as a child by George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer who is charged in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.
In an interview with police released Monday under a judge's order, the woman said she was fondled, groped and kissed by Zimmerman at family gatherings, beginning when she was 6 and he was about 8. She said it continued until she was about 16.
WFTV listened to the near half-hour interview, despite last-minute motions, by Zimmerman's lawyer Mark O'Mara to block its release, calling it an "uncorroborated, irrelevant statement" in court documents. He did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.
But WFTV's legal analyst Bill Sheaffer questions whether a jury will ever hear from Witness No. 9 if this case goes to trial.
The woman said she and Zimmerman would see each other at family gatherings, but their relationship was removed from the audio recording.
In the interview, the woman tearfully recalled watching movies at Zimmerman's house when he first reached inside her underwear. She said she went to sleep crying.
"We would watch movies in front of the TV, and all, we would all lay in front of the TV and we would have pillows and blankets," said the witness during a recorded interview. "He would reach under the blankets and, and try to do things, and I would try to push him off, but he was bigger, and stronger and older."
When she was 12, she told investigators Zimmerman took the molestation further, and forced her to touch his private parts.
She claims it didn't stop until she was 16.
"He started rubbing my back, and then he started rubbing my chest, and when he leaned down to start kissing the side of my face, I felt, um, that he had a, an (bleep). And I was scared. I didn't, I didn't know what was going to happen. I just got up, and I
ran," she said.
Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 death of the 17-year-old Martin, who was unarmed when he was killed in a community in Sanford. Zimmerman claims Martin attacked him. He has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense.
Police in Sanford said prosecutors had not alerted them to the alleged assault, but it is not clear where it may have occurred.
The witness said she was not raped, but the abuse happened over the next 10 years when their families would visit one another.
"Every time that we would go up there, I could just look at him and he would give me a certain look and I would know if it was going to happen," she said.
Around 2005, the woman's parents arranged to meet Zimmerman at a restaurant to confront him, after learning from her sister what happened. He showed up,
said, "I'm sorry," and left, the woman said.
WFTV, along with the Orlando Sentinel and the Sun Sentinel, fought for the release of the interview, and the judge agreed.
"Adding this statement to the discourse will simply be another piece of the puzzle to be relied upon by those who want to believe there was a racial motive to the shooting, and will be dismissed by those who claim that there was no such motive" Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester wrote.
An attorney for Martin's family, Benjamin Crump, said the interview could be used at trial to show Zimmerman "has a history of violence and manipulation." But prosecutors and the defense attorney questioned in court documents whether it would be allowed.
In a separate interview, the woman accused Zimmerman of being a racist. Martin's parents believe the black teen was racially profiled. Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Peruvian.
"I was afraid that he may have done something because the kid was black, because growing up they always made — him and his family have always made — statements that they don't like black people if they don't act like white people," the woman said.
While Witness No. 9 may hurt Zimmerman's credibility in the court of public opinion, Sheaffer believes the problem with her story is that she never filed a police report and there are no other witnesses, so far,
corroborating her story.
"Her testimony is not relevant to any issues in this case, not even on rebuttal," said Sheaffer.
Sheaffer said it's possible prosecutors could use statements claiming Zimmerman is a
racist, but even that could be rebutted with dozens of others interviewed by the FBI who said he isn't.
Under questioning, the woman said she couldn't recall any specific comments Zimmerman made.
Prosecutors also released 145 phone calls Zimmerman made from jail. In one to his wife, he said he once wanted to be a priest, and he was thinking of becoming a chaplain.
As all that evidence comes to light, we're still waiting to find out if a new judge will be assigned to Zimmerman’s case.
On Friday, Zimmerman’s attorney filed a motion to replace Judge Kenneth Lester.
O'Mara said Lester made disparaging comments about Zimmerman’s character during a recent bond ruling.
However, prosecutors are fighting Zimmerman’s request for a new judge.