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Man who shot at George Zimmerman sentenced to 20 years

Matthew Apperson was sentenced for shooting at George Zimmerman as the two drove in separate vehicles


Matthew Apperson is fingerprinted after his sentencing at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center on Monday morning, Oct. 17, 2016 in Sanford, Fla.

Photo/Orlando Sentinel

By Rene Stutzman
Orlando Sentinel

SANFORD, Fla. — The Florida man convicted of shooting at George Zimmerman as the two drove down Lake Mary Boulevard in separate vehicles was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison.

A Seminole County jury found 38-year-old Matthew Apperson guilty last month of attempted second-degree murder, armed aggravated assault and shooting into a vehicle.

On Monday, Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson handed down the state-mandated minimum: 20 years for shooting at another person with a gun.

Moments earlier Apperson’s wife, Lisa, stood in front of the judge and accused her of making unfair rulings and allowing an innocent man – her husband – to go to jail.

Seminole County authorities, Lisa Apperson said, have “given George Zimmerman a golden ticket to go out and do whatever he wants to do.”

Apperson’s mother, Janet White, asked the judge to throw out the verdict and allow her son to go free.

Her son acted in self-defense, she said, and the real bad man here is Zimmerman.

“We will hold our collective breaths to see what outrageous acts he (Zimmerman) performs next,” White said.

Matthew Appreson shot at Zimmerman May 11, 2015. Apperson told police that Zimmerman pointed a gun at him first, but Zimmerman told jurors that that was a lie.

The bullet shattered the passenger-side window of Zimmerman’s truck and lodged in the frame above his window. He suffered minor injuries from glass or metal fragments.

Assistant State Attorney Stewart Stone today said if the bullet had been five inches lower, it would have hit its target.

Zimmerman is the former Neighborhood Watch volunteer who was acquitted of murder for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, in 2012 in Sanford.

Since then, police have been called to the scene of several confrontations involving Zimmerman, including a dispute with his estranged wife and father-in-law about how to divide up belongings, a new girlfriend who accused him of threatening her with a gun then locking her out of the house and a pair of incidents involving Apperson.

Zimmerman sees a doctor in the same business plaza where Apperson worked.

On Sept. 9, 2014, the two men shouted at each other from separate vehicles. Apperson accused Zimmerman of threatening him and called the authorities but did not prosecute.

In court Monday, Zimmerman described Apperson as dangerous.

“The crux here is Mr. Apperson’s blatant disregard for my life, any life … anybody driving up and down Lake Mary Boulevard,” Zimmerman told the judge.

He also said that Apperson “joyfully bragged” that he had killed Zimmerman that day.

Defense attorney Michael LaFay asked Nelson to free Apperson, a paralegal, while he filed an appeal and awaited its outcome.

The judge said no. Zimmerman fired a gun at someone in a moving vehicle, she said, on busy Lake Mary Boulevard. That was a threat to public safety.

Apperson has been in jail since July 31, 2015. He had been free on bond, then prosecutors charged him with urinating on his neighbor’s front door, and the judge ruled that that violated the terms of his pretrial release.

She cited that as another reason he should not be released on bail now.