Shellie Zimmerman, the wife of the man accused of murdering the Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, was arrested on a perjury charge on Tuesday.
Sheriff’s deputies escorted the 25-year-old into the Seminole County jail in Sanford, Florida, at about 3.30pm. She was freed an hour later after posting $1,000 bail.
The office of special prosecutor Angela Corey, who in April charged Zimmerman’s husband George with second-degree murder over the shooting of the 17-year-old, issued a warrant for her arrest earlier in the day.
It followed testimony from Shellie Zimmerman given by telephone at her husband’s bond hearing on 20 April, at which she told circuit judge Kenneth Lester that the couple were virtually penniless. Lester freed Zimmerman, 28, on bail.
However, prosecutors say they later discovered that the Zimmermans had at least $135,000 available to them in donations raised on a private website set up in the weeks after the incident on 26 February in which the neighbourhood watch captain shot and killed the unarmed black teenager.
A clearly angry Lester revoked Zimmerman’s bail at a hearing on 1 June and he returned to jail two days later to await a new bond hearing on 29 June.
According to the arrest warrant signed by assistant state attorney John Guy, Shellie Zimmerman “did knowingly make a false statement, which she did not believe to be true, under oath in an official proceeding” namely the bail hearing.
Under Florida law, perjury committed during capital cases is considered a second-degree felony and carries a potential penalty of up to 15 years in prison and a possible $10,000 fine.
George Zimmerman, who claims he killed the teenager in self-defence, faces at least 25 years in jail if he is convicted of second-degree murder.
A probable cause affadavit that accompanied Shellie Zimmerman’s arrest warrant stated that she was asked by her husband’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara, if there were any “assets that you have which you can liquidate reasonably to assist in coming up with money for a bond”. She replied: “Not that I know of.”
Yet prosecutors say that they have bank documents from four days before that hearing that clearly show Shellie Zimmerman transferred $74,000 from her husband’s account into her own.
A further $47,000 was transferred a day later into the account of George Zimmerman’s sister, prosecutors allege, and they say they have spoken to a Credit Union bank official who personally assisted Shellie Zimemrman with the transfers.
The affadavit also claims that Shellie Zimmerman and her husband spoke in code to disguise the amount of money that was in their bank account at the time.
O’Mara took over as George Zimmerman’s lawyer after the private website was closed and has said that the amount raised for his defence fund, which now exceeds more than $200,000, is independently administered.
Jackelyn Bernard said the state attorney would be making no comment on Tuesday’s arrest. No date has yet been set for a hearing in Shellie Zimmerman’s perjury case.