Just-released jailhouse calls between George Zimmerman and his wife shed light on how the accused murderer of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin obsessed about financial matters in what prosecutors say was an effort to conceal money transfers.
“You're going to take out $10 and put it, and keep it with you, in cash, right?” Zimmerman asks his wife, Shellie, in one conversation. Later, he instructs her to "take care of my account so you can log in,” and "when you get home, please um, please pay off all the bills."
At their most mundane, the phone calls show a couple trying to hold on to a semblance of normality. “You’re going to be able to just, have a great life,” says Shellie Zimmerman. “We will,” responds Zimmerman. “I love you,” he says at one point. “I love you more,” she responds.
Zimmerman, a former neighborhood-watch volunteer, has claimed the shooting of Martin in Sanford, Florida, in February was an act of self-defense. Prosecutors initially declined to file charges, citing the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law. In April, after nationwide protests, a special prosecutor charged Zimmerman, 28, with second-degree murder.
Segments of the transcripts of the phone calls between Zimmerman and his wife had been released previously and formed the basis for the prosecution’s successful efforts to revoke Zimmerman’s $150,000 bond. Portions of the transcripts were also used by the prosecutors in their complaint last week charging Shellie Zimmerman with perjury after she had claimed in the April bond hearing that the couple had no assets.
The tapes of six conversations were released Monday, as were bank statements from the Zimmermans’ accounts at a credit union. The statements show repeated transfers to and from the account in amounts just under $10,000. On April 24, for example, there were 8 transfers of $9,999.00 into Shellie Zimmerman’s account. Banks and financial institutions are required to file “suspicious activity reports” in such cases, according to Jack Blum, a Washington lawyer who specializes in money laundering.
Structuring the money in such a way is not itself illegal, he says, if the money isn’t from an illicit source. But, he says, it shows “a guilty mind.”
“What they’ve done,’ Blum said, “is they’ve given the prosecutors, on a silver platter, evidence of guilty intent.”
In the phone calls, Zimmerman’s wife assures him that he has support outside the jail, including from a website that was taking donations for his defense. She says someone handling that website “said like, so many people, your—your site kept crashing.”
“Wow,” responds Zimmerman. He later says people who support him “need to start vocalizing themselves.”
The couple also discusses Zimmerman’s medication, including whether he’ll be able to get the anti-depressant Mirtazapine, which goes by the brand name Remeron, in jail. He also says he is getting “Tylenol for my back and my Adderall.”
At one point, Shellie Zimmerman says, “isn’t that crazy, how something like this just makes you, like put everything in perspective?”
“Yep,” responds Zimmerman.
“It’s—it’s amazing how insignificant the things that we stress out over are.”
The bulk of the couple’s conversations concern money flowing into and out of their bank accounts. As the prosecution charged in filings earlier this month, the couple repeatedly discusses bank accounts, passwords, and bills.
Zimmerman’s wife testified on April 20 at a bond hearing that she didn’t know anything about the website Zimmerman had set up to attract donations, and that she was “trying to pull together the members of the family to scrape up anything we can.”
The prosecution says the taped calls prove that she knew about the $135,000 that had been contributed to Zimmerman via a Paypal account.
Zimmerman’s next bond hearing is scheduled for June 29, and his lawyer, Mark O’Mara, has said he intends to explain the Zimmerman couple’s state of mind during their phone calls.
The six calls released Monday are just a fraction of the evidence that is to be released in the case. There are 145 more phone calls that Zimmerman had during the nine days he was in jail in April. The prosecution had planned to release those calls as well, but Zimmerman’s attorney today filed a motion that they be withheld, arguing that “the majority of the audiotapes are not relevant.”