Shellie Zimmerman, the wife of George Zimmerman, the man acquitted last month in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to misdemeanor perjury charges for lying under oath about the family’s finances during a bail hearing last year.
As part of her plea deal, Shellie Zimmerman was sentenced to a year of probation and 100 hours of community service.
“I would like to take the opportunity to apologize to you for lying under oath,” Zimmerman wrote to Judge Kenneth Lester, to whom she lied to during an earlier court appearance. “I was aware that what I was saying was not true and chose to take a path that I now regret with all my heart. This is not who I am or the person that I want to be.”
During an April 2012 hearing, as donations in support of George Zimmerman were pouring in, Shellie Zimmerman told a Florida judge that the family was dead broke and asked for a lowered bail amount for her husband in consideration of their dire financial state.
But prosecutors say Shellie and George Zimmerman failed to disclose that more than $135,000 had been funneled to them via a website and a Pay Pal account they’d set up to solicit donations. Prosecutors at the time described a series of calculated lies and distortions, later uncovered in jailhouse conversations between the couple.
George Zimmerman’s bail was revoked two months later after prosecutors presented the recorded jailhouse calls in which the Zimmermans colluded to keep the funds hidden. The funds, George Zimmerman told his wife, were to be used for various debts including payment for American Express and Sam’s Club credit cards.
"This court was led to believe they didn't have a single penny," prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda said at the time. "It was misleading, and I don't know what words to use other than it was a blatant lie."
According to court documents, prosecutors obtained official bank records that detailed the movement of various funds from the pool of donations to multiple family accounts.
Between April 16 and April 19, 2012, just days before George Zimmerman’s initial bond hearing, Shellie Zimmerman moved more than $74,000 to her account from her husband’s funds. Even after George Zimmerman was released on bond, huge amounts of cash were flowing in for his defense. On April 24 of last year, Shellie Zimmerman transferred more than $85,000 from her husband's account to her own.
George Zimmerman was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin six weeks ago. Zimmerman claimed self-defense. The verdict sparked outrage among civil liberties groups.
With Wednesday’s plea deal, Shellie Zimmerman avoided a felony conviction. As part of her plea she wrote to Judge Lester that “By lying under oath, I let my God down, I let your Honor and the court down.”
“I testified that my husband and I had no money to put towards a bond. At the time, we could have paid for a bond out of the contributions to my husband’s legal fund,” Zimmerman wrote. “I was aware that what I was saying was not true and chose to take a path that I now regret with all my heart.”
Zimmerman wrote that in the future “I will tell the truth because in the end all you have is your integrity,” and promised to “work hard to restore mine before the eyes of my God and the world.”
“I am a Christian, and I know the words of the Bible, especially those of Jesus in the Gospel of John 8:32. I am sorry that I had forgotten this passage and forevermore I promise to remember, 'The truth will set you free.'”
Meanwhile, George Zimmerman has come under fire for a recent visit to the Florida gun factory that made the Kel-Tec 9mm pistol he used to shoot Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman took a tour of the assembly plant and smiled with employees. Zimmerman was reportedly shopping for a special tactical shotgun.
“We certainly would not have advised him to go to the factory that made the gun that he used to shoot Trayvon Martin through the heart,” Shawn Vincent, a spokesman for Zimemrman’s attorney Mark O’Mara, told Yahoo News. “That was not part of our public relations plan.”