Updated: June 12, 2012, 6:29 PM
George Zimmerman’s wife was arrested and charged Tuesday with allegations that she lied to the judge in her husband’s second-degree murder case in the killing of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
Shellie Zimmerman, 25, was booked into a Seminole County jail shortly after prosecutors filed a single perjury charge against her. She was quickly released after posting a $1,000 bond.The arrest comes less than two weeks after Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. ordered her husband back to jail when investigations revealed the couple had hidden more than $130,000 from authorities back in April.
The money was significant because Shellie Zimmerman and other family members testified at a court hearing that they had little money to pay for George Zimmerman to be released from jail after he was arrested and charged in the killing.
In part because of their testimony, the judge granted George Zimmerman a much lower bond amount than the $1 million prosecutors had asked for. The result was that George Zimmerman was allowed to go free from jail after his family paid just $15,000 to a bondsman.
Days after the hearing, however, George Zimmerman’s attorney revealed on CNN that his client had managed to raise more than $200,000 for his own defense using a crudely built website and a PayPal account. The revelations were startling given that the Zimmerman family had claimed near poverty in court.
Then earlier this month, investigators said they discovered Shellie Zimmerman knew about the money all along.
Authorities alleged the couple had more than $130,000 at their disposal when she took the witness stand at the April hearing. They also said Shellie Zimmerman transferred some of the money between bank accounts and that she and her husband had talked about the money using thinly coded language in recorded jailhouse phone calls before the hearing.
On Tuesday, special prosecutor Angela Corey’s office revealed in court documents more about the supposed code words the couple used. The Zimmermans appear to have been speaking in dollar figures, but in much lower numbers than the huge amounts of money they were actually referring to.
This is from an April 16 phone call, for instance:
George Zimmerman: in my account do I have at least $100?
Shellie Zimmerman: No
George Zimmerman: How close am I?
Shellie Zimmerman: There’s $8. $8.60
George Zimmerman; So total everything how much are we looking at?
Shellie Zimmerman: Um, like $155
Corey’s office said that conversation and others were proof that Shellie Zimmerman later lied on the witness stand. The charging document filed on Tuesday compared those conversations with her testimony at her husband’s bond hearing four days later when she was being questioned by prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda:
Q. And you mentioned also, in terms of the ability of your husband to make a bond amount, that you all had no money, is that correct?
A. To my knowledge, that is correct.
Q: Were you aware of the website that Zimmerman or somebody on his behalf created?
A: I’m aware of that website.
Q: How much money is in that website right now? How much money as a result of that website was —
A: Currently, l do not know.
Q: Do you have any estimate as to how much money has already been obtained or collected?
A: I do not.
The judge, Kenneth Lester, has already expressed serious anger about being deceived. After verbally ordering George Zimmerman back to jail earlier this month, Lester made his decision doubly known with a written order that was made public on Tuesday.
In it, Lester said the deception adds to the reasons why he should possibly keep George Zimmerman in jail until his trial, which may not begin until 2013. And in what may be a worse sign for the defense, the judge wrote that the evidence against Zimmerman is “strong.”
“There are several factors that weigh against his release: this is a serious charge for which life could be imposed; the evidence against him is strong; he has been charged with one prior crime, for which he went through a pretrial diversion program, and has had an injunction lodged against him,” the judge wrote, adding: “Most importantly, though, is the fact that he has now demonstrated that he does not properly respect the law or the integrity of the judicial process.”
Still, Lester has scheduled another bond hearing for June 29, where he will give George Zimmerman and his lawyers and chance to explain why he should let the defendant go free one more time.
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org