August 29, 2013 9:44:49 AM
SANFORD, Fla. -- George Zimmerman's wife pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor perjury charge for lying during a bail hearing after her husband's arrest, and she was sentenced to a year's probation and 100 hours of community service.
Shellie Zimmerman, 26, had been charged with felony perjury after she lied about the couple's assets during a bail hearing following her husband's arrest for the fatal 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was acquitted last month of second-degree murder. Shellie Zimmerman had been charged with a felony and, if convicted, had faced up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. She had given her bail-hearing testimony by telephone last year because of safety concerns for Zimmerman's family.
As part of the deal, Shellie Zimmerman wrote a letter of apology to Judge Kenneth Lester, who presided over last year's bail hearing.
"By lying under oath, I let my God down, I let your Honor and the court down, I let my family and friends down, and, most of all, I let myself down," Shellie Zimmerman wrote in the letter.
Shellie Zimmerman misled the court because she had been told by others to say "maybe that's not my money," her attorney, Kelly Sims, said after the hearing.
"But in her heart, you know, if it walks like a duck and looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it's a duck," Sims said. "She was calling from a phone. She was scared. Her husband was locked up. She didn't know what was going on. So, she stood by her man, like Tammy Wynette says. She's accepting responsibility."
Prosecutor John Guy said he agreed to the deal because Shellie Zimmerman didn't have a prior criminal record and the misdemeanor plea would allow her to pursue her nursing career.
"The important thing is that she apologized to Judge Lester for what she did," said Guy, who helped prosecute Zimmerman unsuccessfully. "The proof is not in question in this case. It was only a matter of what should be done as far as the disposition."
Court records show that in the days before the bond hearing in June 2012, Shellie Zimmerman transferred $74,000 -- broken into eight smaller transfers ranging from $7,500 to $9,990 -- from her husband's credit union account to hers. It also shows that $47,000 was transferred from George Zimmerman's account to his sister's in the days before the bond hearing. Amounts of over $10,000 would have been reported to the Internal Revenue Service.
Four days after he was released on bond, Shellie Zimmerman transferred more than $85,500 from her account into her husband's account, records show. They also show that the jail recorded George Zimmerman instructing her on a call to "pay off all the bills," including an American Express and Sam's Club card.
Most of the money had come from donations to a website that had been set up to pay for George Zimmerman's defense.
At the bail hearing, Shellie Zimmerman testified that the couple, who married in 2007, had limited funds for bail because she was a full-time student and her husband wasn't working. Prosecutors say they actually had then already raised $135,000 in donations from the website.
Shellie Zimmerman was asked about the website at the hearing, but she said she didn't know how much money had been raised. A judge set George Zimmerman's bail at $150,000 bail, and he was freed a few days later after posting $15,000 in cash -- which is typical.
After Shellie Zimmerman's false statements were discovered, the judge revoked her husband's bail. He was later released on $1 million bond.
Shellie Zimmerman's plea deal was one of the last loose ends left from her husband's murder trial. A judge still has to consider defense attorneys' request for sanctions against prosecutors for what they claim was their withholding of evidence.