Monday, January 25, 2010

Casey Anthony Pleads Guilty To Check Fraud

When Casey Anthony was escorted to the courtroom during the hearing on January 25, noticeably absent was the jingle-jangle sound of her shackles which usually accompany such appearances. Anthony, dressed in a freshly pressed, light blue shirt and gray pants, walked in with a smile for her attorneys.

According to Jose Baez, in an interview with Jane Velez-Mitchell on HLN later in the evening, Casey was going to get her wish. Baez told Velez-Mitchell that

Well, she always wanted to plead to this case. It was always a concern of hers. She was always very sorry for what she did to Amy.

I have to wonder if that is truly the case here. The fact is, Casey waited for well over a year to reach that point. In the meantime, her defense had filed a number of motions in the fraud trial. There was a motion for change of venue, to submit prospective jurors to an extensive questionnaire, and individually sequestered voir dire. There were other motions for other various and sundry exclusions from the trial, including barring the admission of evidence relevant to the murder trial and evidence of Casey's prior bad acts. Now, those motions go into the "major waste of paper" section of my stack of motions for the case, never to see light of day again.

The hearing began with Casey's plea to the Court. Casey, accompanied by her attorneys, Jose Baez and Andrea Lyon, came to the podium. Baez spoke first, stating that his client would be entering a plea to the Court in the check fraud case. Judge Strickland then looked over the plea form. Casey was sworn in and asked the usual questions prior to entering her plea.

At this point, I noticed that her yes/no responses were very short and clipped, almost choked off at the end. This morning, I found one of my favorite sources for body language, Lillian Glass. Her article on the hearing is very interesting and, in many ways, reaffirmed my own reaction to the proceedings. Her article is a must-read!

After questioning Casey, Assistant State's Attorney Frank George briefly presented the basic facts of the case, including each check, its number and amount, and place where it was cashed.

Jose Baez stipulated to the facts as cited by Mr. George.

The judge then told Casey that she seemed alert and intelligent and that he would accept her plea.

Judge Strickland then asked Jose Baez to speak to what sentencing he would expect. Instead of simply stating that he wished to have all charges not be adjudicated and his client sentenced to one year's probation, he went into quite a diatribe against the State.

He went on, in his faltering manner, to state that he felt that Casey had been discriminated against because she was "unpopular". He even listed "unpopular" as a type of discrimination way up there with race and gender. He also said that the State could not find, even if they did extensive searches through the entire public records, where a first-time offender, such as Casey, would only be offered an unacceptable five year sentence. He also carped on the fact that his client had been over-charged and that the five years offered by the State was not "fair". He likened the situation to being in "a muck of justice".

Personally, I think his comments were all "in a muck" and very painful to listen to. He ended asking the judge to see that Casey receive "equal justice under the law as is written above you"and to not adjudicate any of the charges and impose parole of "about" a year. As a closing, Baez reminded Strickland that Casey had no prior record and had made full restitution. Lastly, he objected to the costs that the State was asking for. Baez stated that the $5,517.75 cost of investigation was excessive considering that the theft was only $600.54. He mentioned again the "armada" of police cars sent to arrest Casey.

Judge Strickland indicated that he had to impose the costs and that they could be argued over later.

If you remember, at the December 11 hearing, Judge Strickland had given Baez & Company an ultimatum: January 25 was THE date for either a jury trial, a bench trial, or a plea. The judge had also indicated clearly to Baez what his decision would probably be for any first-time offender in Casey's situation. While the judge was not in a position to broker a deal with Casey, he made it very clear (wink-wink) that she would probably get time served and that while she would be found guilty of all 13 counts, her punishment would not reflect 13 felonies. In a sense, Baez was "speaking to the choir" here with his back against the wall in terms of ending the case.

I can only assume that this speech by Baez was mainly to attack the State's Attorneys and do some gratuitous grandstanding. I have to wonder if this was a wise decision, considering the much more serious trial to come.

Mr. George briefly responded and indicated that he didn't know how long Mr. Baez had practiced law in Orange and Osceola Counties, but that the charging situation was not uncommon. In fact, Judge Strickland had made the exact same comment at the December 11 hearing. George stated that he did not want to get into a competition of words and simply indicated that Casey had plead guilty to all 13 counts and that punishment would be the Court's decision. He also stated that that she had already been incarcerated for over a year-and-a-half and that the actual cost of the restitution that had been paid was $654.25. George continued by stating that the State would object to adjudication and parole and would prefer adjudication and a straight jail sentence.

George then brought up a prickly situation that exists. It would not be possible for her to be put on probation as she is incarcerated and already under 24 hour supervision. Casey would still be incarcerated for the foreseeable future and possibly for the rest of her life.

Upon saying that, the camera went to the podium and Casey's face tensed and she gave a big gulp. I am sure she wasn't comfortable hearing this from Mr. George.

Baez responded briefly, telling Judge Strickland that the State was "putting the cart before the horse" in assuming that Casey would spend the rest of her life in jail. He said that they were working hard to acquit Casey and it was "bold" of the State to make such assumptions.

It was then Judge Strickland's time to render justice. He ended up adjudicating Casey on 6 charges, one each for the writing of the four checks, one for one of four counts of using Amy Huizenga's identity, and one for grand theft, as the total was over $300. Each charge was given time served, 412 days (as the judge had hinted at the prior hearing). He did not adjudicate on the remaining 7 charges and sentenced Casey to one year of probation. She is not to have any contact with Huizenga. Strickland stated that “I withheld in seven. I adjudicated in six. If that seems Solomon-like, it is. I just couldn’t think of a better, more appropriate way to do it.”

Almost as an afterthought, it was mentioned that Amy Huizenga was not present in court and did not wish to make a statement. Then, it was Casey's turn to make a brief apology to her friend.

“I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m sorry for what I did. I take complete and full responsibility for my actions. And I’d like to sincerely apologize to Amy. I wish I would have been a better friend.”

In her blog this morning, Lillian Glass had this to say about that little speech:

As Casey was reciting her lines of bullshit, Jose Baez’s eyes did not leave Casey’s face. He looked like a proud papa at a grade school play, making sure that his kid didn’t flub her lines. Casey may have memorized her lines and not flubbed them verbally, but she sure flubbed them vocally and body language wise.

The probation situation is problematic. In order to be adjudicated, probation must be served and then the charges essentially "go away" for the most part. Since Casey is in jail already, probation, or public supervision is not possible at this point. It was suggested by Mr. George that she serve the probation in jail. Strickland pointed out that that particular remedy was difficult since he can only sentence a person to jail for up to one year. In the end, the probation issue and the financial issue were left for another time. Jose Baez cracked a not-so-funny joke: "We could solve this with a reasonable bond..." As Baez smirked at his own wit, nobody laughed.

When all was said and done, Casey Anthony ended up as a convicted felon. What this will mean for the future remains to be seen. Experts disagree and Baez didn't seem to mind about that. In an interview with reporters as he was leaving court, Baez stated that "adjudication didn't mean a "whole lot".

Once the plea was dealt with, the hearing returned to motions in the murder case.

The first motion discussed was the defense MOTION TO TAKE DEPOSITION TO PERPETUATE TESTIMONY OF JILL KERLEY. Kerley is the ex-wife of Roy Kronk who was interviewed by a defense PI and essentially said she thought Roy could have done it. She is ill with non-Hodgekins lymphoma and is unable to travel to Orlando due to her illness. Andrea Lyon indicated that they are working towards resolving the issues. She indicated that Linda Drane Burdick wants the opportunity to do an evidence deposition first. This was agreed to by both parties and interviews will take place based on Ms. Kerley's chemotherapy schedule. Ms. Burdick did not waive the right of the State to call the witness to the stand during the actual trial, health allowing.

Judge Strickland approved the motion.

The only concern Ms. Drane Burdick had was with the costs of traveling to the "mini-trial proceeding." While she was willing for the State to pay for the expenses to travel to Tennessee for the discovery process. Some time later in the hearing, Andrea Lyon made a brief comment that perhaps Casey could be declared indigent for these particular purposes. For now, financial discussions are premature and will be discussed when and if it is necessary.

In his interview after the hearing, Baez also commented on the "Kronk" situation. He stated that they are "not pointing the finger at Mr. Kronk" and they are not "making any disparaging remarks about Mr. Kronk". Baez claimed that he is only looking for material with which to impeach Kronk. He also called the police investigation into Kronk, "shoddy work". Any other information concerning Kronk would come out at trial.

This whole Kronk issue should be going on for quite a while. The Court hasn't even discussed the main motion, DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE TO INTRODUCE PRIOR BAD ACTS AND OTHER CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE PERTAINING TO ROY M. KRONK. I have a feeling it will be another circus-within-a-circus.

The next motion that was discussed brought up some very lively discussion. Linda Drane Burdick stated that the purpose for the STATE OF FLORIDA'S SECOND MOTION TO COMPEL RECIPROCAL DISCOVERY and MOTION FOR DISCOVERY SCHEDULE was to move the case along.

Judge Strickland started the discussion of the motion by indicating that he expected both sides to submit discovery schedules and that he would either make one of his own or choose one of the two submitted.

Drane Burdick indicated that no trial date could be set until the defence took depositions of witnesses. She said that the defense had filed a motion entitled OBJECTION which blamed the lack of progress on the State. She indicated understanding of the scientific information status, but stated that there were other, non-scientific aspects of the case on which they could move forward. She said that the defense has any number of LE and civilian witnesses they could depose. In addition, the defense has received 90% of the discovery in the case has already been turned over to the defense. While she was not casting blame on the defense, she felt that the court now needed to get involved in the discovery process. Finally, she said that, based on the current pace, that the trial would probably not be able to be scheduled for the summer. She was also concerned that, as the trial date approached, that the defense would "dump" 50 or 60 witnesses on them, forcing the trial even further back in time. Drane Burdick mentioned that the State would not like to see the trial take place 3, 4, or even 5 years after the incident.

Strickland mentioned that the main items asked for included names and addresses of witnesses. Drane-Burdick said that the defense had begun to supply them to her recently and that that particular issue was moot at this point.

Jose Baez spoke to the motion next. He began by saying that there was no disagreement among the parties. He said they wanted to see the case move along as well. However, he said that they were "not going to have the rug taken from under us" and that they were "gonna be thorough...". He then said that, "We call this motion the pot calling the kettle black".

Before Baez could continue with more of this sort of legal argument, Judge Strickland interrupted him to say, "let's not go there".

Baez then said, "How many times have we filed motions to compel...".

Strickland responded, "You're doing it again, anyway".

Strickland pointed out that he was aware that due to the "tough" nature of the case, people got hot under the collar. He essentially told Baez that this was not the time for finger-pointing; it was time to make progress in the case. Next, the judge indicated that it was time for each party to present a discovery schedule. He then pressed both sides as to whether or not they wanted to set a trial date, even though it is difficult to do in this case.

Baez then went on to state that they had still not received all the empirical scientific data they had asked for.

This situation has been going on since December 11, 2008, the day Caylee's remains were discovered. The next day, the defense wanted all the photographs, maps, etc. This was followed up numerous times throughout 2009. Not the least of the information the defense wants is just about every piece of information about testing, the lab, the technicians, the scientists that exists. It goes far beyond the information that is normally given out. We heard about the fact that the judge has no jurisdiction over these entities and neither does the State's Attorneys' Office.

Baez said that the Oak Ridge Lab would give them everything that they requested above and beyond what had been supplied to the State.

When Baez said that it wasn't about pointing fingers, the judge interrupted him again to say that that was where he was heading. Judge Strickland then brought the discussion back to setting a trial date. The judge asked Baez if he would like to discuss this with Ms. Lyon (the lead attorney on the case). Strickland quickly pointed out that they would establish deadlines for discovery. As he was saying this, Ms. Lyon approached the podium and Baez went on talking for a bit telling the judge that they would be meeting with the defense that afternoon to discuss these issues. Then, the judge again recommended he consult with Lyon, and he did, briefly.

Jeff Ashton got up to speak to the issue. He said that the State had all the information that the Oak Ridge lab was willing to provide and that all that information had been turned over to the defense. If the defense wanted anything else from the lab, it was an issue the defense would have to deal with directly with the lab.

The judge told the defense that they would have to file something and then have the lab's counsel come in to deal with the situation. Essentially, the State is "incidental" to the issue, according to Strickland.

The judge went back to the point at hand. He now asked if he should set a trial date and work backwards from there, or would they prefer not to have a trial date and set the discovery schedule.

Ashton said that the defense and prosecution would meet together to make a discovery schedule. Strickland set a deadline of 10-15 days for this. Once he had set the schedule, a trial date could then be selected.

Ashton went on to ask if the only problem was with the Oak Ridge lab. Baez stated that there was also a problem with the FBI. Ashton then said that he believed there were some "latent print-related items that are not in the discovery" that he has been able to find.

Needless to say, that line has brought up a great deal of discussion on the Internet!

He then said that, other than that, the defense had everything the FBI lab was willing to provide.

Baez then went on to complain about how the State was providing them with discovery. He said that there is a strong percentage of the forensic evidence they do not have.

Strickland made it clear, one last time, that the defense has everything the labs will provide and that the situation now demands that attorneys for Oak Ridge and the FBI lab now be involved in the process.

Ashton did request that Linda Kenney-Baden, who is the "science" attorney in the case, get directly in touch with him rather than go through the chain of Baden-Baez-Drane Burdick-Ashton to improve communication on the issues.

With this, the hearing came to a close.

If you would like to watch the entire hearing, here are the links:

Part 1
Part 2

According to WESH, later Monday, Strickland denied the defense's motion to stop jail visits from being videotaped. The motion had been filed January 19.

Earlier this week, Tim Miller's attorney, Mark NeJame asked for a continuation and the TES motion was not heard as expected.

I am so pleased with Judge Strickland. Today, he managed to keep the defense from running on and on and on and kept the hearing on track.

What's next to look forward to? Well, we are fast approaching the February 1 deadline set for the defense to provide the witness list which will prove that Caylee's body was placed in its final location while Casey Anthony was in jail!

Stay tuned to T&T!


Katprint said...

When you watch the Check Fraud/Theft/Forgery hearing, you see Casey smile slightly during the part where the prosecutor is describing her using Amy's checks to shop at Target. Casey is NOT sorry for what she did; she is only sorry that she is being held accountable for it.

seeing_eye said...

I agree, Katprint. Casey is NOT sorry for what she did; she is only sorry that she is being held accountable for it. And, IMO, her tears (if there were tears) were for herself because she was having to confess that she had done something wrong and that she had lied. She's not used to being forced to own up to such things.

ritanita said...

I agree with both of you. What's worse, is that after the hearing Baez stands in front of the courthouse and invites Amy to call his office anytime. Casey is so sorry to have lost a friend.

RIGHT! Amy is a pretty important witness in the murder trial. Baez would love to get his hands on her.

What part of "no contact" with Casey didn't he get?

Amy's did all the right things. She didn't bother to show up and refused comment to the media.

Anonymous said...

Did the guilty plea only involve the checks from Amy or did it also involve the checks stolen from her grandmother?

Thanks for the updates!

ritanita said...

Anonymous at 7:54

Casey was only charged with the theft and use of Amy Huizenga's checks.

All of Casey's other forgeries and thefts were kept in the family. Cindy's mother did want to press charges and hold Casey accountable. Cindy begged her not to.

If Casey had been held responsible for that first bogus check, she may have learned a lesson.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ritanita for the answer about which checks she pled to...unfortunately the family only helped her continute her downward spiral by not making her held accountable for her actions in the check forging....but in viewing this family's actions since her arrest, they just don't get it and probably never will.

FRG said...

I always read your blog and I might say "love it". Thanks for your hard work!!!
I have a question about today, I am almost sure Judge Strickland's deadline for the defense to turn over their discoveries (Todd Macaluso stated another person other than KC placed Caylee's body at the swamp) would be today along with the witness list or just the witness list?
If it's today, will these documents be public records?
Thank you very much!!!

Anonymous said...

So hard to believe Casey has any remorse for actions. The way the check trial went, I am thinking she expects her murder trial to be the same walk in the park. Sorry just doesn't cut it.