Judge says Casey Anthony, who was acquitted of murder charges, must return to Florida to serve probation for check fraud and should not be allowed ‘to take advantage of a scrivener’s error.’
Casey Anthony must return to Orlando within two weeks to begin serving a year of probation for a check-fraud conviction, even though the Probation Department had said she already completed the requirement, a Florida judge ruled on Friday.
Chief Judge Belvin Perry said Ms. Anthonyâ€™s earlier period of supervision by the Probation Department was not real probation since it was conducted while she was still in jail.
â€œTo permit the defendant â€¦ to avoid serving probation now, would take a lawfully imposed sentence and make it a mockery of justice,â€ Perry wrote in his 13-page ruling.
â€œThis would allow a defendant to take advantage of a scrivenerâ€™s error and be rewarded,â€ he said. â€œThis is not the message the courts want to send to the public or defendants.â€
The decision disrupts apparent attempts by Casey Anthony to maintain a low profile since her acquittal last month on charges that she murdered her two-year-old daughter, Caylee.
The acquittal sparked outrage among many who have been following the case since Cayleeâ€™s disappearance three years ago and the discovery of the toddlerâ€™s skeletal remains in December 2008. Casey Anthony has been the target of numerous threats, including death threats, and has been living in an undisclosed location.
Judge Perry gave Casey Anthony until noon, Friday, August 26 to personally present herself to the Probation Department in downtown Orlando. Her one year of supervision begins the day she reports.
The judge also directed the Probation Department to keep her residential and other personal information confidential in recognition of the threats made against her.
Perry noted that a recent poll concluded that Casey Anthony was the most hated person in the United States. â€œThis court is very mindful that it is a high probability that there are many that would like to see physical harm visited upon the defendant,â€ Perry wrote.
Casey Anthony faces standard terms of probation. Casey Anthony must maintain a job and report to her probation officer at least once a month. In addition, she is barred from excessive use of alcohol. Her home may be searched upon request. Any illegal activity would violate her probation and could land her back in jail.
The probation issue arose as an apparent afterthought two weeks ago when the judge who presided over an earlier check-fraud case discovered that Casey Anthony was not serving a one-year term of probation.
The judge, Stan Strickland, had sentenced Anthony to 412 days in jail with credit for time served plus a year of probation upon her release. But Stricklandâ€™s signed order did not include the requirement that probation be served â€œonce released.â€
Instead of waiting until her release from jail, the Probation Department decided to begin its supervision of Casey Anthony in February 2010 while she was still in jail in pre-trial detention pending her approaching murder trial.
At the conclusion of the year-long supervision, probation officials sent a letter to Anthony notifying her that â€œyou completed your term of supervision on 1/24/2011â€¦ and are no longer under the supervision of the Department of Corrections.â€
Two weeks ago, upon discovering Anthony was not serving her probation, Judge Strickland issued a corrected sentence, making clear that he intended for her to serve probation after being released from jail.
The action was unusual because Casey Anthony had already been released from jail.
Anthonyâ€™s defense lawyers filed a motion to overturn Stricklandâ€™s amended sentence, arguing that their client had already served her term of supervisory probation. Another term of probation would violate the Constitution as double punishment for the same crime, they said. They also charged that Stricklandâ€™s actions were motivated by bias against Anthony.
Judge Perry did not address the bias accusation in his ruling. Instead, he characterized the central issue as a â€œclerical errorâ€ which, he said, Strickland had the authority to correct.
â€œThis case does not involve additional punishment proscribed by the double jeopardy clause nor does it involve a punitive effect by requiring the defendant to serve probation twice,â€ Perry wrote. â€œThe defendant was in jail and unable to meet the goals and requirements of the probationary sentence. The defendant could not comply with the standard thirteen conditions of probation while incarcerated.â€
Perry said fault for the earlier term of probation lay with Casey Anthony and her defense lawyer, Jose Baez. â€œIt is very clear that the defendant and her attorney knew she was to start her probation upon release from the Orange County Jail. Despite this fact, they took advantage of a scrivenerâ€™s error which started the probation while she was being held in the jail pending trial,â€ he wrote.
â€œThe defense should not be able to claim that they are now harmed by having the defendant serve probation at this time,â€ Perry said.