Florida man convicted of attempted murder of George Zimmerman

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - A Florida man was found guilty on Friday of attempted murder for shooting at George Zimmerman during a roadside confrontation with the ex-neighborhood watch captain widely known for killing unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, local media reported.

Matthew Apperson, 37, who according to prosecutors has a history of mental illness, was convicted in a jury trial in the Orlando suburb of Sanford, Florida, according to accounts by the Orlando Sentinel newspaper and 24-hour Orlando television news channel News 13.

A Sanford jury in 2013 acquitted Zimmerman, 32, of murder in the fatal 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Martin, a case that helped spark the Black Lives Matter movement and overshadowed both Apperson's prosecution and his defense.

See images of the controversial case:

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George Zimmerman shooting 5/11 (Updated w/ shooter 5/19)
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George Zimmerman shooting 5/11 (Updated w/ shooter 5/19)
Matthew Apperson, 35, makes his first appearance in Seminole County court at the John E. Polk correctional facility in Sanford, Fla., on Saturday May 16, 2015. Apperson was charged Friday with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and firing a deadly missile into an occupied conveyance stemming from an incident involving George Zimmerman earlier in the week. (Joshua C. Cruey/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Matthew Apperson, who was involved in a shooting incident in Lake Mary, Fla., involving George Zimmerman, enters the Lake Mary Police Department just before his attorney Mark NeJame on May 11, 2015 in Lake Mary, Fla. The shooting was reported May 11, 2015 at Lake Mary Blvd. and Rhinehart Road. Zimmerman suffered minor facial injuries. Lake Mary Police Department Chief Steve Bracknell said the shooter in the incident today is believed to be Matthew Apperson of Winter Springs, a man Zimmerman had a road-rage incident with last year. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Vehicle believed to belong to George #Zimmerman hauled from shooting scene #fox35 http://t.co/EtJduC9hiA
George Zimmerman was involved in another shooting today. Had traffic blocked. #orlando #thefloridalife
A witness says the alleged shooter who is a white male complied with Lake Mary police and was taken away.#wesh http://t.co/SSoLfyzJME
.@LakeMaryPD Chief Steve Bracknell said Zimmerman is being released from a hospital in Sanford now. Zimmerman did not shoot in the incident
I just saw Zimmerman get shot in the face on Lake Mary Blvd!!!! Sort of...
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 20: A woman holding a can of ice tea and bag of Skittles candy and hundreds of protesters take part in a 'Justice for Trayvon' vigil outside Los Angeles Federal Courthouse July 20, 2013 in Los Angeles, United States. The vigil, along with others held nationwide, was organized by the National Action Network and called for federal charges to be filed against George Zimmerman in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
People angry at the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of black teen Trayvon Martin protest outside City Hall in Los Angeles, California July 16, 2013. A jury in Sanford, Florida last week found Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman, not guilty of shooting dead Martin, a 17 year-old unarmed teen on the night of February 26, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
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Police asserted in their arrest affidavit for Apperson that he seemed to have a fixation on Zimmerman, who claimed to have acted in self-defense when he shot Martin, a high school student walking through the community after stopping at a convenience store. Police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman, citing Florida's so-called "Stand Your Ground" law.

Apperson's lawyer in turn questioned Zimmerman on the witness stand, getting Zimmerman to acknowledge that he had sold the gun used to shoot Martin for $250,000 and considers Black Lives Matter activists to be "terrorists," according to the Orlando Sentinel.

In addition to second-degree attempted murder, Apperson was convicted on charges of shooting into an occupied vehicle and aggravated assault with a firearm stemming from his altercation with Zimmerman in Lake Mary, Florida, according to the Sentinel.

Apperson has been in custody since July 2015, when Seminole County Circuit Judge Debra Nelson revoked his bond following a complaint that he urinated on his neighbor's porch.

In that incident, Apperson was found guilty of disorderly conduct at trial in October 2015, and sentenced to 60 days in jail with credit for time served, according to court records.

(Reporting by Barbara Liston in Orlando; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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