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).