- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The attorney who helped George Zimmerman win acquittal last year says he was asked to represent a Florida firefighter charged with sexually assaulting several women because of his ability to handle sensitive cases.

Mark O’Mara said Thursday said that Terry Freeman’s family contacted him this week and asked him to take on the case because of mounting publicity.

The 32-year-old Freeman, who worked as a firefighter in the city of Deltona, faces charges involving six women whose ages range from 25 to 42, authorities said. Investigators say the assaults occurred at his home, and the victims were women he met at work or had gone on dates with.

Freeman is charged with five counts of sexual battery, one count of attempted sexual battery and one count of false imprisonment. Investigators say the attacks occurred between 2011 and 2013.

The Zimmerman case sparked a nationwide debate about race and self-defense. Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, was acquitted of a murder charge in the death of Trayvon Martin. Throughout the Zimmerman case, O’Mara frequently appeared in the media and created a website and social media accounts to distribute information on the case and raise money for the defense.

Still, O’Mara said the attention he garnered while representing Zimmerman is “both a blessing and curse” for potential clients.

“I’ve sort of learned in the last year and a half of how to handle sensitive cases, from the parties involved to the media,” he said. “I think we can handle it with the same sensitivity that we tried to with Zimmerman.

“But the family reached out not because of the notoriety, but because of how we handled it…That’s what the Freeman family saw and why they reached out to me.”

Since his arrest, Volusia County Sheriff’s Office investigators said they have received information from other women who say they have also been assaulted by Freeman. Sheriff’s investigators, along with Orange City Police, are investigating allegations from six other women.

A call to a number listed as a residence for Freeman went unanswered.

O’Mara said “it’s way too early” for him to offer any initial impressions on the charges Freeman faces.

“They are very serious charges,” he said. “They have to be looked at and dealt with in sensitivity to all involved - the complaining witness, and for the client. It’s still way too early in the process. My only request is for everyone to withhold judgment until we look at the facts.”

Freeman, who was arrested on Dec. 31, had an initial appearance in court on Wednesday and entered a plea of not guilty. He remained in jail Thursday, with bonds for his charges totaling $750,000.

O’Mara said he has had an initial meeting with Freeman, and that the next step is to start receiving discovery documents from the state attorney.

Freeman’s next hearing is set for Feb. 13.


Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/khightower

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