AFRICANGLOBE – Shellie Zimmerman, the wife of acquitted murder suspect George Zimmerman, today pleaded guilty to a less serious form of perjury in a plea deal that requires her to serve one year of probation with no jail time.
It was a negotiated deal, designed to avoid a felony conviction and allow her to move on with her life. The 26-year-old was a nursing student nearly done with her schooling at the time of her arrest. Had she been found guilty of a felony — the perjury charge she was facing — she would have been banned from applying to become a state-certified nurse for three years.
She was composed during this morning’s 10-minute hearing. She answered questions from Circuit Judge Marlene Alva in a clear, confident voice, saying, “Yes, ma’am,” when asked if she understood what she was doing and believed it to be in her best interest.
She did not apologize in court, but in a letter to Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester, the judge to whom she was accused of lying, she did.
“By lying under oath, I let my God down, I let your Honor and the court down, I let my family and my friends down, and most of all, I let myself down. In the future, no matter what the consequences, I will tell the truth because in the end all you have is your integrity,” she barked in the letter, which was required under her plea deal.
There were only two unexpected bumps at the hearing: Defense attorney Kelly Sims asked the judge if his client could travel nationwide for a job while on probation. Alva said yes, so long as her probation officer authorized it.
It’s not clear what that job might be. Shellie Zimmerman did not answer questions after the hearing, and Sims would not provide details, saying only, “You must wait for the next chapter.”
The other bump involved community service. Her deal requires her to perform 100 hours. Sims told the judge that his client wants to do that at her church, but Alva said Zimmerman must perform it at a place authorized by the Florida Department of Corrections.
Sims said he’d try to work out the details.
After the hearing, Sims called the overall plea deal “more than a triple. It’s a home run.” It allows Shellie Zimmerman to move on with her life without a felony conviction on her record.
Notably absent from the courtroom was her husband, George Zimmerman, the former Neighborhood Watch vigilante who killed Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford.
A Seminole County jury acquitted him of second-degree murder last month.
Because Shellie Zimmerman was a potential witness in that case she was banned from the courtroom during most of his trial. But she attended when it was allowed, and the couple was seen holding hands at times as they walked down the courtroom hallway.
When asked why George Zimmerman was not in the courtroom for his wife’s plea hearing Wednesday, Sims would only say, “That’s an excellent question.”
The original charge against her was perjury during an official proceeding — lying during one of her husband’s bond hearings last year. That’s a third-degree felony, which carries a possible five-year prison term and $5,000 fine.
That charge stemmed from her telling Lester on April 20, 2012 — while under oath — that she and her husband were broke. In fact they had taken in more than $130,000 in donations in just over two weeks from Internet donors wanting to help Zimmerman defend himself against the murder charge.
On Wednesday, however, she pleaded guilty to perjury but not at an official proceeding, a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
Sims said Wednesday that she had been told the money was part of her husband’s defense fund, although the couple was spending some of it on living expenses.
George Zimmerman didn’t tell her to lie, Sims said, but “She was standing by her man, just as Tammy Wynette said.”
She had no prior criminal record, and Assistant State Attorney John Guy of Jacksonville agreed to allow her to plead guilty to the lesser charge.
Guy works for Special Prosecutor Angela Corey, the lawyer appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to handle George Zimmerman’s criminal case.
Sims thanked Guy and Corey, calling their agreement “gentlemanly” and “gentlewomanly.”
Recorded phone calls made by George Zimmerman from the Seminole County Jail show that in the days just before the bond hearing, he and his wife talked about those defense fund donations, and he directed her to move money between various credit union accounts and to put some in a safety-deposit box.
However, the two talked in code, referring to $10 when they meant $10,000, according to prosecutors.
The couple’s financial records from that same period show the money being transferred between their accounts and those of at least one other close family member, often in increments of $9,990.
By: Rene Stutzman