Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Attorneys say return to Florida would put Casey Anthony in peril ! ! !


(CNN) -- Attorneys for Casey Anthony are fighting a judge's order requiring her to return to Florida and serve a year of supervised probation stemming from a check fraud conviction, arguing, among other things, that returning would put her "in great peril."
However, authorities believe that Anthony will report to the Orange County, Florida, probation office by 10 a.m. Thursday, as required, Gretl Plessinger, a Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman, told reporters Wednesday.


Meanwhile, Judge Stan Strickland -- who signed the amended documents Monday mandating Anthony's return -- recused himself from the matter Wednesday, transferring it to Orange County Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr., who presided over Anthony's murder trial.
The documents signed by Strickland were amended after an apparent misunderstanding.
Anthony pleaded guilty in January 2010 to felony check fraud charges, admitting she stole a checkbook from her friend Amy Huizenga and wrote five checks totaling $644.25. At the time, defense attorney Jose Baez asked that Anthony be given credit for time served and be placed on probation.
Strickland apparently intended for the supervised probation to begin after Anthony's release from custody, Randy Means, spokesman for the Orange County State Attorney's Office, said this week. But the order signed by Strickland at the time seemed to indicate it was to run while she was in custody awaiting trial on murder charges in the 2008 death of her daughter, Caylee.
A jury acquitted Anthony of charges in Caylee's death. The 25-year-old Orlando woman was released from jail on July 17. Her whereabouts since then have been unknown.
Means said prosecutors were surprised to receive a letter from the probation office indicating Anthony's probation was completed.
He said there was a miscommunication between what Strickland said at the sentencing and what the court clerk understood. The clerk thought the probation and Anthony's time in custody were to run concurrently.
The documents were amended Monday to add the words "upon release" to Anthony's sentencing documents, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
In an emergency motion filed Tuesday, Anthony's defense team claims she cannot serve probation again when she has already served it behind bars, saying that violates the double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment, as well as Anthony's right to due process. The motion, filed by attorney J. Cheney Mason, calls the amended documents "a fraudulently filed product of a previously disqualified judge."
Strickland had been presiding over Anthony's murder case until April 2010, when he recused himself after the defense accused him of being a "self-aggrandizing media hound" who was biased against her. Perry took over and stayed in that position throughout the trial.
In the motion filed Tuesday, Mason notes that Strickland, in an appearance on HLN's "Nancy Grace," expressed "shock" about Anthony's acquittal, and criticized the jury's verdicts in an appearance on CNN affiliate WESH.
"Such unbridled prejudice by a sitting judge calls into question the validity of any rulings made after recusal," Mason wrote.
If Anthony must serve probation, the motion says, she requests "administrative probation" -- a form of noncontact supervision, according to the Florida Department of Corrections website, in which an offender who represents a low risk to the public may, after completing half the term of regular probation, not be required to report regularly to a probation officer. Periodic record checks are done to ensure the person has not violated probation, the website says.
The request is made, Mason wrote, because "any requirement that (Anthony) return to Orange County put(s) her in great peril, as well as impose(s) a significant cost to taxpayers in securing her safety." Anthony has received several threats against her, the motion says.
Plessinger told reporters that Anthony would be required to abide by the usual conditions of probation -- she must have a job and an address, and would have to request permission for any move outside the area. Security is not provided for probationers, Plessinger said. Anthony would be required to pay "a certain amount" for her supervision, Plessinger said. "If she's telling us she's indigent, we'll have to look at that."
"Our goal is to treat (Anthony) like every other probationer who we supervise in the state of Florida," she said.
CNN's Emily Robards contributed to this report.