Why did George Zimmerman Attempt to Conceal $155,000 and his Passport From the Court?

George Zimmerman is charged with second degree murder. His wife, Shellie Zimmerman was recently charged with perjury, based on her testimony at his bond hearing that she had no idea how much money he had received from donors posting money into his PayPal account at his internet website.

We know that she testified falsely because, following specific instructions that he gave her over the jailhouse phone during several recorded conversations, she transferred approximately $155,000 out of his internet PayPal account and into his personal account at a local credit union. She transferred that sum of money in amounts less than $10,000 and immediately repeated that process to transfer the money out of his account and into her personal account and his sister’s personal account at the credit union prior to the bond hearing on April 20, 2012. After he bonded out, she moved the money back into his personal account.

The apparent purpose of this scheme was to conceal from the court that $155,000 had been donated to him at his internet website. In furtherance of that scheme, Shellie Zimmerman parked the money in her personal account and his sister’s personal account, such that a casual account-balance inquiry by the court on the day of the bond hearing would show little money in the PayPal and his personal account.

He also failed to disclose the existence of and surrender a second U.S. passport issued to him. These acts appear to have been motivated by a desire to establish a secret escape route out of the United States on short notice, if things started going sideways in his case.

I recently wrote an article in which I mentioned that the prosecution might amend the information against him to add a perjury charge, but only if Shellie Zimmerman agreed to cooperate and identify him as the person who instructed her to deny knowledge of how much money had been donated to him in the PayPal account. The recorded jailhouse conversations that the prosecution has released do not contain such an instruction and for this reason I think the prosecution will have to play let’s make a deal with Shellie Zimmerman to provide the missing evidence.

Of course, I am assuming that he did instruct her to lie to the court, if asked. I am aware that he told her to tell the truth, but we know that they were advised that their conversations were being recorded and they used a code to conceal the amounts of money they were discussing. Their use of a code to hide $155,000 from the authorities coupled with her denial at the bond hearing of any knowledge about how much money had been received does not inspire confidence that he would have have answered that question truthfully, if asked. Under these circumstances, his recorded admonition to tell the truth appears to have been staged. He certainly made no effort through counsel to correct his wife’s false testimony.

The proper way for the prosecution to proceed, assuming it is interested in obtaining Shellie Zimmerman’s cooperation in prosecuting her husband for perjury, would be to contact her lawyer and ask him to submit a written summary or proffer of her testimony. If the proffer appears to be truthful and helpful to the prosecution case, it should extend a reasonable offer to settle her case conditioned on her cooperation and truthful testimony at trial.

Note that the prosecution does not have to charge him with perjury in order to introduce evidence at his trial about the perjury. Lawyers refer to this type of evidence as uncharged-misconduct evidence, which is admissible under Rule 404(b), if it shows consciousness of guilt.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that Shellie Zimmerman would testify that, for the purpose of creating an escape plan in the event that his case started going sideways, he organized and directed a scheme in which she actively participated to conceal $155,000 and his possession of a valid second passport from the Seminole County Circuit Court. That evidence would be admissible for the same reason that evidence of flight to avoid prosecution is admissible to show consciousness of guilt under Rule 404(b).

23 Responses to Why did George Zimmerman Attempt to Conceal $155,000 and his Passport From the Court?

  1. Maryellen says:

    Really no matter if someone doesn’t be aware of afterward its up to other people that they will help, so here it happens.

  2. Malisha says:

    I believe that, since there were two or more persons in each of the recorded statements George made, the prosecution could get them into evidence by having the OTHER person in each conversation (that would be Serino, Singleton, and the voice stress test analyst) and/or the police officer who got the written statement from George authenticate the recordings, as in, “This is indeed the tape of the conversation the defendant had with me on such and such a date.” The one I am not sure about is the Sean Hannity “infomercial” because I don’t know if they could get Hannity to testify or force him to testify. But I think that can be entered on the record as is because it was broadcast on national television as “news.”

    The issue is that George can’t really make a case for self-defense of any sort without testifying because he was the only witness to what was happening when the physical confrontation began, having killed the other witness to that scene (and indeed, killing the other witness might very well have been a separate crime of witness tampering to cover the crime of attempted kidnapping and unlawful restraint).

    Does this sound right?

  3. CherokeeNative says:

    I want to add that if the prosecution can withhold the video taped statements and reenactment, thereby forcing GZ to testify in order to get his side of the story before the trier-of-fact, it is brilliant – because in that case, the prosecution could withhold the statements, wait until after GZ testifies, and then introduce the video taped statements and reenactment to show GZ’s many discrepancies. I am concerned that if this isn’t the case, GZ could refuse to testify and merely rely upon his video taped statements. Your wisdom on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    • Mirre says:

      That part of the bond hearing was really enlightening to me. The prosecution could just introduce the profiles of gz and Trayvon, introduce the nen call, introduce the 911 call with the screams in the background and the physical evidence. They could show the map, which shows Trayvon moving in the direction of the place he was staying and that the only reason for gz ending up where he did, was because he was following Trayvon. They could use a couple of the witnesses, introduce the analysis of the screams. FBI may not have been able to conclusively exclude gz as the screamer, they did not identify him as the screamer. And of course the testimony by the girlfriend.
      I don’t think the prosecution needs gz’s statements to make a compelling case.
      You force gz to take the stand to claim it was self defence, I think the prosecution can demolish him with his inconsistancies.

      • ajamazin says:

        I think most of us have a basic understanding of the law.

        However, that which seems logical and sensible to us has not be done to date in this case.

        After the fiasco that passed as a bond hearing, I see little reason to ‘trust’ it will.

  4. CherokeeNative says:

    Mr. Leatherman. I have a question I hope you will answer. During the 2nd bond hearing the prosecutor in his closing argument indicated that he welcomed a trial or SYG motion because that would mean GZ would have to testify “because his recorded video taped statements and the reenactment video” could not be relied upon unless the prosecution introduced them into evidence – which to me was implying that the defense cannot rely upon those statements unless the prosecution introduces them at trial or a SYG motion. Is this law? Can the prosecution withhold those statements so that GZ must testify at trial in order to tell his side of what occurred that night? Can you direct me to the statute or case authority that states that?

  5. KA says:

    I also thought it strange that the State did not ask Robert Zimmerman Sr his level of knowledge of the funds.

    The mere fact that they were paid back $3500 in the days before the bond hearing and the kids were involved in transactions would beg the question about Robert Sr. personally knowing and also falsely testifying? It would also discredit the testimony of the father about the screaming voice “definitely being George’s.”

  6. crazy1946 says:

    Due to the knowledge and willing participation of his sister in this act of fraud, could she also be charged as a co-defendent with Shelly? It would seem that the family was aware of what was happening, yet little has been said about their role in the deception of the court.

    • ajamazin says:

      I am disturbed by the ‘special’ treatment afforded the Zimmerman family.

      Three members have been granted the privilege of testifying telephonically, only to abuse it, and now another member is afforded protection from publicity.

      The Zimmerman’s are ‘special’ people.

      I am forced to wonder if this is due to both Robert W. Zimmerman and Robert J. Zimmerman careers with the
      US Foreign Service, DOD, military intel, and CIA.

      • jd says:

        Accepting money is not a crime. Participating in a criminal conspiracy to lie to a court probably is, provided it can be proven.

        It seems so far they only have proof that Shellie is guilty of perjury. That’s enough to gain leverage against the defendant on the murder charge, and probably also enough to get a search warrant and possibly some wire taps going, too.

        If the prosecution had heard the jail tapes soon enough, they may have been fast enough to record other conversations by other family members in on the alleged conspiracy I’m suggesting here for speculation purposes.

        That means the whole family may be waiting for the other shoe to drop, and wondering which of them all is going to cut a deal first and rat the others out.

        I’ve got no proof but it’s one possible scenario here.

        The dad put up $10K and the mom loaned them $4500, apparently. Yet somehow they seem to have admitted using $5K of the pay pal money for the bondsman. What did mom and dad know, and is GZ in the habit of lying to his parents?

        I’m shocked the father wasn’t asked during the hearing on the 29th about the hidden money and hidden passport. Was his testimony not on topic enough to allow the prosecution to go there? Wasn’t it a bond hearing? I need a lawyer’s opinion on this question, please. I missed that part of the televised hearing and have not listened to the audio that was posted on YouTube of the hearing.

        link to audio of 29 JUN bond hearing

        • I also would like to know more about the shell game to conceal the money. I understand dad Zimmerman’s concern for his son, but I doubt he would have recommended or participated in the scheme to conceal the money from the court and deny knowledge about it, if asked. As a lawyer and former magistrate he would have known that the scheme would have been discovered sooner or later and there was no necessity to hide the money because they would have gotten it back after the case was over, assuming George made his court appearances.

          The police should contact and attempt to interview family members, but I imagine they will assert the 5th Amendment and refuse to talk.

          That leaves Shellie as the most likely source of information and they will have to go through her lawyer to question her.

          She may remain loyal to George and refuse to cooperate.

          It’s also possible that she will turn on him for involving her in the scheme and take advantage of any deal her lawyer can get for her in exchange for pleading guilty and cooperating with the prosecution, including testifying against George.

          If she does turn on George, I’m sure the investigators will ask her about the possible involvement of others.

          We’re going to have to wait and see how that plays out.

      • KA says:

        In the bank records, Gladys Zimmerman was paid $3500 back in the days before the bail hearing. How did they know he had money to pay off his debt? If the kids were administrating it and aware of it, and the parents were paid off their loan at the same time, I have a really hard time believing the parents did not know about the funds as well.

    • Visitor says:

      I agree, why are other involved members of the family not held as responsible as his wife Shelly. If anyone finds the real name of Susie please share. Thank you
      Are donations still actively coming into pay-pal, anyone know?

    • Knowledge of the money was not a crime.

      Denying knowledge about the money while under oath is perjury, if they knew about the money.

  7. ajamazin says:

    Does “his sister” have a name?

  8. jd says:

    But for the GPS tracking device, when GZ was released on bond he had the means, motive and opportunity to flee from justice arranged fully. We can’t know, absent a confession from someone whether he planned to make use of the hidden money and the hidden passport but that doesn’t change the above facts.

    The rest we have to speculate about for now. I think moving the money out of GZ’s account could have many purposes, but moving the passport from a JOINT account into Shellie’s safe deposit box is more indicative of a scenario where they anticipated having George’s account’s SEIZED and examined, not just the subject of a search warrant or balance inquiry.

    In other words, I think the passport hiding is the key to understanding the motive. And to me it shows they hoped that George would make bond and possibly even stick around for a Stand Your Ground hearing before deciding if he was going to flee justice or not. Sad to say, the prospect of thousands of MORE dollars rolling in must have been a temptation to put off the flight for as long as possible. It’s pure greed, stupidity and a lack of understanding for the legal matters that were facing him that caused this behavior. They seem to have thought they could get away with…. murder. And then make it pay.

    Who knows what GZ truly thinks of his supporters. I’ve heard he was a registered democrat, and he doesn’t seem to be a white supremacist type of racist. If he is taking these sorts of folks’ money and hiding it from the court in preparation for a flight from justice, what might he think about them?

    That depends on why he may have wanted to elude justice. In his mind, perhaps he felt he couldn’t get a “fair trial” despite his innocence (in his mind.) Perhaps he knows he is guilty, and it’s just a matter of time before he’s found out.

    The difficulty at present is that he’s clearly told a lot of lies to investigators and we can’t yet know where the truth ends and the lies begin regarding all the actions of the evening. Some of what happened may have led GZ to honestly think he could claim self defense. I tend to think it was him calling for help, at least some of the time. That alone may have given him the idea that he was justified in shooting the teen.

  9. Monty says:

    Just in case the defense team didn’t think they would be able to beef up their bill some more, behold another golden egg. Bring on the motion in limine to exclude flight, followed by a not so straight faced chuckle and hearing, followed by drafting another of what I’m sure will be a vast multitude of final instructions. In the mean time, the next coded message out of the jail might be decoded as, “snithches get stiches.” 😀

    What does Florida law say, if the wife decides to roll, will she be competent to testify on the matter? Seems like a typical privilege argument should be out, given the notice of monitored conversations. Don’t know about Florida but, those states that maintain a spousal competency distinction from the marital privilege would be a godsend in such an instance at trial.

    • You raise an important point that I will amplify for the benefit of people who lack knowledge about legal privileges.

      A legal privilege is legal rule that protects the confidentiality of certain communications for public policy reasons

      For example, the attorney-client privilege shields communications between a lawyer and his client in order to encourage clients and their lawyers to communicate and speak freely regarding a legal matter.

      Privileges recognize important societal benefits of certain types of relationships and seek to promote and protect them by exempting communications between people in those relationships from disclosure.The H/W privilege is one of those relationships.

      The privilege, however, does not protect communications from disclosure, if they are discussing committing a crime and getting away with it.

      Some states also have another legal rule that a husband and a wife are not competent to testify for or against each other in a legal matter. The State of Washington has a competency statute.

      • Malisha says:

        I don’t believe that at this point in time there is any possibility whatsoever that Shellie Zimmerman will or would roll over on George and give ANY INFORMATION AGAINST HIM. I believe that at this point in time she is entirely and 100% within his control and probably has been so for as long as she has been married to him if not longer. I believe she is totally fused to him emotionally and any idea that she would offer evidence SHE BELIEVES is harmful to George is incorrect.

        I see Shellie Zimmerman as so emotionally dependent upon George as to have no independent ego available for function. And, by the way, that is the only kind of wife George could possibly have, in my opinion. (And my opinion in matters such as this tends not to be terribly humble.) It’s a co-dependent relationship based on George Worship.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: