LOCAL L.A. Now

Shellie Zimmerman says marriage is on shaky ground

Accepting the difference between what is legally defensible and what is ethically or morally defensible has been among the biggest challenges for people who believe that George Zimmerman should have been punished for killing Trayvon Martin.

Something just seems amiss when the only person guilty of a crime in connection with the sordid affair is Zimmerman’s 26-year-old wife, Shellie, who pleaded guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor perjury after lying to a judge about their assets during a bail hearing last year.

In the same courthouse where her husband was acquitted of second-degree murder, and where she spent every day of his trial sitting behind him in support, she was sentenced to a year of probation and 100 hours of community service. Her husband was nowhere to be seen.

Thursday, in an interview with investigative reporter Christi O’Connor on “Good Morning America,” Shellie Zimmerman said the past year and a half has taken a heavy toll on her.

Her marriage is on shaky ground, and she has feared for her life and been constantly on the move, living like “gypsies,” since her husband killed Martin in February 2012.

O’Connor, who is writing a book about the case, told ABCNews.com that Shellie Zimmerman felt that her self-esteem had been “beaten down” by her husband and that she was looking for a fresh start.

“She has a moment in the spotlight,” O’Connor told ABC News. “She wants everyone to know that she changed her life.”

A nursing student who said she was two months away from receiving her degree, she seems to be taking some positive steps, unlike her clueless husband, whose poor decisions generate headlines wherever he goes. Most recently, it was for visiting the gun factory that made the same type of weapon he used to kill Martin. Shellie said she did not think the visit was "right" or "sensitive."

And though she has never spoken to Martin’s parents, she said, “I’m so deeply sorry for their loss. I can’t even begin to understand the grief that a parent experiences when they lose a child.”

Shellie Zimmerman, who was originally charged with felony perjury, got into trouble at her husband’s April 20, 2012, bond hearing, when she told the court under oath that she and her husband were indigent. At that time, they had raised many thousands of dollars thanks to a website that solicited money from donors who believed Zimmerman, 29, had acted in self-defense the night he shot the unarmed teenager.

“And you mentioned, also, in terms of the ability of your husband to make a bond amount, that you all had no money, is that correct?” the prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda asked her.

“To my knowledge, that is correct,” she replied.

Except she was lying.

Prosecutors obtained copies of credit union records for the Zimmermans' accounts and found that she had transferred more than $74,000 from her husband’s accounts to her own in increments of less than $10,000 in the three days before the bond hearing.

Prosecutors also produced transcripts of taped phone conversations between the Zimmermans, in which they spoke in transparently coded language about money transfers.

It was an extremely unsophisticated and dumb move on their part.

But only Shellie Zimmerman is paying the legal price.

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Twitter: @robinabcarian

robin.abcarian@latimes.com

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