The riveting case of a young mother whose two-year-old daughter disappeared and was found dead in a wooded area near her grandparents' Florida home continued Thursday with the sentencing of Casey Anthony to four one-year terms for lying to police.
Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. told the Orlando court that Anthony would get one year in jail for each misdemeanour count, and a fine of $1,000 US on each of the four counts "to run consecutive to each other." However, she will also get credit for the nearly three years she has already served in jail.
The sentencing decision means Anthony will remain in jail for the time being. The judge said she has 30 days to file any notice of appeal.
It will be determined later how much credit she will get for time served, Perry said, adding that that could happen late this month or early August. At that point, she may be released or stay in jail.
Thursday's sentencing hearing followed the 25-year-old's acquittal Tuesday on the three most serious charges against her — the first-degree murder of daughter Caylee Anthony, aggravated child abuse and manslaugher.
Wearing a silvery blue sweater and her long chestnut brown hair down, Anthony sat stone-faced, often looking down and fidgeting with her hair, until hearing her sentence.
She was found guilty by a jury of four misdemeanour counts, based on an interview with a detective on July 16, 2008. Anthony, in jail for nearly three years, could have served a maximum of one year in jail for each count, but received credit for time already served.
The sentencing hearing opened with defender Holly Hughes asking that Anthony only be sentenced on one count since the lies —including that she was working at Universal Studios after it was discovered Caylee was missing and that the child was with a nanny when investigators were trying to locate her — were told during a single interview with an officer, and therefore didn't have time to "pause and reflect between lies."
A lawyer for the state of Florida responded that each lie should be taken into account separately, even though they all occurred on the same day, because each was intended to mislead law enforcement and send them "on a wild goose chase."
Anthony refuses to speak
Perry took time to read the defence's case law backing its claim that it would contravene Anthony's constitutional rights to sentence her on four counts instead of one. However, he said, law enforcement expended a great deal of time and energy — from July through December 2008 — looking for Caylee as a result of the lies, so discounted the defence's argument.
He also asked Anthony's lawyer if she wished to say anything before her sentencing, to which he responded no.
Hundreds of people began lining up outside the courthouse hours before the 9 a.m. ET sentencing — the six-week trial typically attracted crowds of people jockeying to get into the courtroom — and dozens carried signs protesting her acquittal.
Anthony has been in the Orange County Jail since Caylee's body was found in July 2008.
On Wednesday, jail staff met to prepare for her possible release, and officials emphasized the need to ensure it would be done carefully.
"Due to the high-profile nature of this case and intense, emotional interest by the public, appropriate measures will be taken to release the individual into the community in such a manner so as to preserve the safety of the individual and the public," a release said.
One jail official told the media that most likely no one would know where and when she would be released to protect her.
Criticized for lies
The Anthony case has transfixed America since Caylee went missing – a disappearance that took Casey Anthony more than a month to report. Following her acquittal Tuesday, hundreds outside the courtroom expressed outrage about the verdict, and legal analysts said Anthony would be found guilty in the court of public opinion for the foreseeable future.
Prosecutors had contended the single mother, who was living with her parents — painted during the trial as head of a highly dysfunctional family — suffocated Caylee with duct tape because she wanted to be free to party and spend time with her boyfriend.
They also nailed Anthony for the lies she told after Caylee went missing. She told her parents that she couldn't produce Caylee because the child was with a nanny named Zanny — a woman who never existed — and that she and her daughter were spending time with a rich boyfriend, who also never existed.
The defence argued Caylee accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool, and that Anthony panicked and she and her father hid the body. There were also allegations made by the defence that Anthony was suffering from the traumatic effects of being sexually abused by her father, George Anthony. All the allegations were intensely denied.
In the end, Anthony was acquitted largely because the cause of Caylee’s death wasn’t determined, and there was no clear-cut evidence that her mother committed the murder.
Whether Casey Anthony will return to the home of George Anthony and his wife Cindy wasn't clear following her sentencing hearing.
But a lawyer for the family told U.S. reporters Wednesday that Anthony's family received death threats ahead of the 25-year-old's possible release.
Anthony's attorney, Jose Baez, also said Wednesday that he feared for his client's safety given the high-profile nature of the case.