Matthew Apperson was convicted of attempted second-degree murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and aggravated assault for the May 2015 altercation

By Greg Hanlon
October 17, 2016 01:58 PM
Seminole County Sheriff's Office

The Florida man convicted in September of shooting at George Zimmerman during a 2015 road rage incident was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Monday, PEOPLE confirms.

Matthew Apperson, 37, was convicted of attempted second-degree murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and aggravated assault for the May 2015 altercation, Florida State Attorney spokeswoman Lynne Bumpus-Hooper tells PEOPLE.

Apperson must serve the entirety of the sentence but will get credit for 444 days he spent in jail while awaiting trial, Bumpus-Hooper says.

Apperson’s attorney, Michael LeFay, tells PEOPLE he will appeal the verdict on the grounds that the defense was prohibited from bringing testimony allegedly showing that Zimmerman had threatened another motorist on the same road as the shooting.

Apperson had pleaded not guilty, claiming he acted in self-defense because Zimmerman — who made headlines after he shot unarmed Florida 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012 — pointed a gun on him first.

In 2013, Zimmerman was controversially acquitted of murder in Martin’s death, and he maintains that shooting was in self-defense.

Zimmerman testified at a 2015 probable cause hearing in Apperson’s case about how their altercation began. According to his testimony, Zimmerman was heading to a Sam’s Club in a car with a tire that was low on air. When he heard a car horn honking, he initially thought it was someone trying to tell him he had a flat tire.

“After, I rolled down the passenger side window and I said, ‘Thank you, I already know I’m losing air,’ ” Zimmerman testified. “That’s when [Apperson] said, ‘You already know you’re wrong for killing that little black boy?’ “

“He said, ‘Do you remember me, you fat [expletive]? You owe me your life,’ ” Zimmerman testified. “I laughed and said, ‘You’re a clown.’ “

“At that point, I looked into [his] vehicle,” he continued. “I saw the barrel of a gun.”

Apperson’s bullet narrowly missed Zimmerman, but he was injured by spraying glass and other debris.

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Seminole County Sheriff's Office
Seminole County Sheriff's Office

Apperson was released on bond after his initial arrest in the shooting, but his bond was revoked when he urinated on his neighbor’s door, Bumpus-Hooper tells PEOPLE. He was convicted of disorderly conduct and sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Apperson is in the Seminole County jail in Florida but will soon by transferred to the custody of the state Department of Corrections, Bumpus-Hooper says.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Zimmerman told the court on Monday, “The crux here is Mr. Apperson’s blatant disregard for my life — any life.”

But LeFay, Apperson’s attorney, tells PEOPLE, “I find it to be disturbing that no matter what Mr. Zimmerman does, and no matter what violent things he does, he always seems to end up wearing the victim’s mantle.”

• With reporting by STEVE HELLING