A cousin of George Zimmerman claims he sexually abused her as a child over a 10-year period, according to taped interviews released Monday by prosecutors. Zimmerman's defense team tried, but failed, to stop the recordings' release.
The alleged assaults began when the woman was 6 years old and Zimmerman was 8; they allegedly continued until she was 16, USA Today reports. Zimmerman is currently 28 years old.
But even if the woman's allegations are true, could Zimmerman face criminal charges for incidents that happened at least a decade ago?
It depends on the nature of the alleged abuse, and where they took place.
The cousin claims George Zimmerman sexually abused her numerous times when she and her sister spent the night with Zimmerman's family in Virginia, according to the Orlando Sentinel. At least one incident took place in Florida.
The location is important because each state has different laws about prosecuting child sexual abuse cases. Virginia, for example, has no time limit for prosecutors to charge someone with child sexual abuse, according to Virginia Statehouse News.
But the last of the alleged abuse happened in Florida, when the cousin was 16 and Zimmerman was around 18. In Florida, such an assault can be a first- or second-degree felony, depending on the amount of violence involved. Prosecutions must take place within four or three years, respectively, of a child victim turning 18. For the Florida incident at least, the woman's claim is likely too late to prosecute.
Time limits for prosecutions in other states can be found in FindLaw's collection of State Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws.
It's not yet clear how prosecutors intend to use the George Zimmerman sexual abuse allegations in their murder case against him, if at all. At this early point, there is also no indication whether Zimmerman will face any sex abuse charges anywhere. Prosecutors released the taped interview Monday along with other recordings, including 145 phone calls by Zimmerman in jail, USA Today reports.
[Editor's Note: 7/16/12 2:45 pm PST: This post was updated to reflect that the Witness #9 is Zimmerman's cousin, a fact later confirmed by Zimmerman's defense team.]