Jail phone transcripts show Zimmerman, wife discussing finances in code

Posted at 9:52 PM, Jun 18, 2012
(CNN) — Despite telling the court they were indigent, George Zimmerman and his wife discussed — in code — money raised online to help in his defense on second-degree murder charges, transcripts of jailhouse phone calls released Monday show.

Prosecutors had alleged the Zimmermans lied about their financial means before a Florida judge set his bond, which the suspect then posted to get out of jail. Zimmerman, who is accused in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, is now back behind bars after the judge revoked his bail, citing the misrepresentations.

Transcripts of six calls made public Monday, out of about 151 total that Zimmerman made while incarcerated, appear to back up the prosecutor’s assertions.

At her husband’s April 20 bond hearing, Shellie Zimmerman testified she didn’t know how much had been raised through the website her husband had set up prior to charges being filed.

And when asked if the couple had money available to assist in his defense, she replied, “Um, not — not that I’m aware of.”

In one jailhouse phone conversation, Zimmerman asks his wife, “In my account, do I have at least $100?” She answers no, then tells him he has more like “$8, $8.60.”

“So total everything, how much are we looking at?” Zimmerman asks his wife.

“Like $155,” she responds.

Prosecutors claim the husband and wife were speaking in a type of code about their available funds, an assertion the defense does not dispute.

In another call, Zimmerman asks his wife to “pay off all the bills,” including Sam’s Club and American Express bills, prosecutors said.

The couple also discusses how much money can be accessed and what to do with it, including transferring funds that were raised online for his defense to accounts belonging to Zimmerman’s sister and wife, prosecutors state in a probable cause affidavit.

Records released Monday show that tens of thousands of dollars were transferred out of a bank account. Prosecutors allege a total of $47,000 was transferred from George Zimmerman’s account to his sister’s account from April 16 and 17, and that Shellie Zimmerman transferred more than $74,000 from her husband’s account to her account between April 16 and April 19.

After George Zimmerman was released on bond this spring, his wife transferred more than $85,500 from her account back to his account, according to the affidavit.

Prosecutors allege the couple actually had about $135,000 of donations at their disposal when they both told the court, under oath, they were indigent.

Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara, later said his client ended up netting a total of $204,000 via PayPal accounts — about $150,000 of which is now in an independently managed trust after $30,000 was used to pay for “life in hiding” and $20,000 has been kept liquid.

On June 1, Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. agreed with the prosecution that the Zimmermans were dishonest about their financial status and, after revoking George Zimmerman’s bond, ordered that he return to jail. He remains behind bars and has a second bond hearing set for June 29.

And on June 12, Shellie Zimmerman was arrested on a perjury charge for allegedly lying at her husband’s bond hearing about the couple’s finances. She was released later that day after meeting the conditions of a $1,000 bond, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said.

Defense attorneys acknowledged, in a statement released June 4, that the audio recordings “make it clear that Mr. Zimmerman knew a significant sum had been raised by the original fund-raising website.”

“We feel the failure to disclose these funds was caused by fear, mistrust and confusion,” the lawyers said. “The gravity of this mistake has been distinctly illustrated, and Mr. Zimmerman understands that this mistake has undermined his credibility, which he will have to work to repair.”

The defense team on Monday filed a motion asking a judge to reconsider the release of a witness statement and to clarify a previous ruling on the release of additional jail phone calls. Both issues will be addressed during next week’s bond hearing.

Besides the conversations about finances, the newly released phone call transcripts shed light on the relationship between George and Shellie Zimmerman. In one exchange, they talk optimistically about their future together.

“After this, … you’re going to be able to just have a great life,” Shellie Zimmerman said.

“We will,” replies her husband.

The two also talk about the support Zimmerman has received from the public, in the wake of the controversy that followed the February 26 shooting.

“You’re special and (an) amazing role model to people, honey,” his wife said.

“Hmm, I wish, I wish I were,” Zimmerman said.