(Reuters) - Florida prosecutors filed a perjury charge against the wife of neighborhood watchman and murder suspect George Zimmerman on Tuesday, alleging she lied about the family’s finances during her husband’s bond hearing.
Seminole County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Shellie Zimmerman, 25, at her home and took her to the same jail where her husband is being held on a second-degree murder charge in the February shooting of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin.
Shellie Zimmerman was released a short time later on $1,000 bond, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said.
George Zimmerman’s $150,000 bond was revoked and he returned to jail earlier this month after prosecutors said the Zimmermans had misled the court about their financial status.
They failed to tell the court about more than $135,000 that donors had contributed to help pay for George Zimmerman’s legal defense and also withheld a valid passport issued to George Zimmerman, prosecutors said.
Shellie Zimmerman testified at her husband’s April 20 bond hearing that the family had no money and that she did not know how much had been raised through the website that was collecting donations for her husband.
In fact, family credit union accounts showed that she had transferred more than $74,000 from her husband’s account to her own during the five days before the hearing, an investigator with the state attorney’s office wrote in an affidavit supporting her arrest.
Using coded language, the Zimmermans discussed the transfers in several phone calls recorded at the jail in the days preceding the bond hearing, the affidavit said. They also talked about moving money to Zimmerman’s sister’s account and about taking money from a safety deposit box, the affidavit said.
“I think I’m gonna go to the bank today and get more cash too,” Shellie Zimmerman said in one recorded call.
After her husband’s release on bond, she transferred more than $85,500 from her account back to his account, the affidavit said.
It was unclear what the Zimmermans planned to do with the money, though in one recorded call George tells his wife to “pay off all the bills,” including some credit card bills.
George Zimmerman’s lawyers have acknowledged that Zimmerman hurt his credibility by claiming to be penniless and misleading the court about his financial status.
Zimmerman, 28, shot and killed Martin during a fight in the gated community in Sanford where Martin was visiting his father. Martin was unarmed and walking back from a store when Zimmerman called a 911 dispatcher and said the teen looked suspicious.
He followed Martin against the dispatcher’s advice and said he shot in self defense after Martin attacked him and slammed his head to the ground.
Police initially declined to charge Zimmerman, prompting protests across the United States and sparking debate about race relations, guns and self defense laws.
Zimmerman was arrested after a special prosecutor was brought in to review the case and has pleaded not guilty. His next bond hearing is set for June 29.
Reporting By Jane Sutton; Editing by Dan Burns and Cynthia Osterman