SANFORD, Fla. — Shellie Zimmerman, the wife of George Zimmerman, pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to a less-serious form of perjury in a deal that will require her to serve one year of probation.
Circuit Judge Marlene Alva accepted the plea during a brief hearing at the Seminole County criminal courthouse in Sanford.
It was a negotiated deal, designed to avoid a felony conviction. 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 nurse for three years.
The deal also requires her to write a letter of apology to Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr., the judge to whom she was accused of lying, and to serve 100 hours of community service.
The official charge filed against Shellie Zimmerman was perjury during an official proceeding — of 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.
She told Lester that she and her husband were broke when, 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 a murder charge for killing Trayvon Martin.
However, 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 of perjury in an unofficial proceeding. That’s a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of 12 months in jail.
Guy works for Special Prosecutor Angela Corey, the lawyer appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to handle George Zimmerman’s criminal case.
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 donations, and he directed her to move money between various credit union accounts and to put some in a safe-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, generally in $10,000 increments.
A six-member Seminole County jury acquitted George Zimmerman in Martin’s death.