Dial M for money

By Glenna Milberg, Reporter, gmilberg@Local10.com
Published On: Jun 19 2012 10:26:11 AM EDT
Updated On: Jun 19 2012 03:10:56 PM EDT
Glenna Milberg Blog

MIAMI -

Talk about bait and switch.  Thousands of dollars so many people donated to George Zimmerman's defense fund instead went to pay off American Express card debt and some bills at Sam's Club and Target.   We know this because George talked to his wife Shellie about it during one of his calls from jail.

George: "Did you pay everything off yesterday?"

Shellie: "Yes I did, I paid all the bills....  like the AMEX I paid off, you know."

George: "Okay. The Walmart, all that stuff?"

Shellie: "I called all those companies to see the balances, and I paid them all off ...  and I even paid like, your mom, because, you know, you were paying her monthly."

Zimmerman's bank records and jail phone recordings became public as part of case evidence against him.  Prosecutors believe they show crimes even after Trayvon Martin's death, like Zimmerman hiding money from the judge determining his financial assets during a bond hearing, and his wife lying as she testified about how broke they were.

The newly-released evidence makes clear the Zimmerman's were not broke, thanks to a growing pot of website donations to fund his defense, and that they knew darn well they were not broke.  More significantly, they tried to hide it, careful in their conversations on the jail phone, knowing they were recorded.  They used codes like "Peter Pan" for the Paypal money transfer website, and talked about amounts of money sans lots of zeros.  In the days preceding that bond hearing last April, they made dozens of transfers in and out of their credit union accounts in amounts between $9,000 and $9,999.  Maybe it's just coincidental that federal anti-money laundering laws trigger flags of transfers starting at $10,000.  Zimmerman's sister's account received $47,000.

George: "Are you doing it?"

Shellie: "I’ve already, I’ve already done it twice today into each, so I've done four."

George: "Okay, good, good, good."

Shellie: "Do you want me to do more than that?"

George: "If, if you can, yeah."

Those recordings provide the audible reason the judge revoked Zimmerman's $150,000 bond and ordered him back to jail.  And they are the basis for a perjury charge against his wife.  

As if being arrested for second degree murder of an unarmed teen wasn't enough of a problem for him.

And here is the head-scratcher: he had a chance.  He had scores of people ready to back him and his account of what happened in those moments with Trayvon.  He had some credibility. ("Had," past tense, being the operative word).  

So many people believed in Zimmerman's innocence, in his claim that he shot in self-defense, in his God-given, Florida-statute-backed right to protect himself, that they took the time, effort and expense to send someone they had never met a chunk of their hard-earned money.  They transmitted their donations, mostly anonymously, to a cause and a purpose named George Zimmerman Defense Fund.  There were $135,000 in that fund on that day of the bond hearing in April, and more donors have grown the fund to more than $200,000 since then.

So much for Zimmerman's credibility.  So much for him as the leader of a movement defending Florida’s Stand Your Ground statute, the right to brandish and use a weapon in public to protect yourself.  

If his lack of credibility crashes any defense against lying to a judge, imagine what happens when it comes time for his murder defense.  Is Zimmerman’s narrative believable now?

By the way, who's paying for that defense now that Zimmerman used those well-intentioned donations like lottery winnings to pay off some bills?

And do any of the donors out there want their money back?  

More: Milberg's Musings

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