UPDATE NO. 3, FEB. 10, 2:02 P.M.: As he promised during the civil trial he ultimately lost, Kent Easter dropped his appeal of his felony conviction, prompting the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana to dismiss the case today.A lawyer for Kelli Peters, the victim of Easter and his ex-wife Ava Everheart, said his client would have no comment on the appeal being dismissed.
UPDATE NO. 2, FEB. 8, 9:25 A.M.: Here is how Kelli Peters won a $5.7 million judgment against Kent Easter and Ava Everheart in Orange County Superior Court on Friday:
* Jurors deliberated about an hour before finding Kent Wycliffe Easter and his ex-wife Ava Everheart (whose name used to be Jillianne Bjorkholm Easter, and after that Ava Bjork) were guilty of inflicting emotional distress and false imprisonment and that they should pay victim Kelli Peters, her husband Bill and their now-15-year-old daughter $5.7 million in damages.
* Kent Easter, 41, who represented himself in the trial, told City News Service that the damage award was “mind-boggling,” but he declined further comment. Everheart was not at the courthouse to hear the verdict.
* Peters is “relieved and feels vindicated,” according to her attorney Rob Marcereau. “She is very happy that justice was done for her. It was never about the money. It was standing up to people who were bullies really.”
* Kelli Peters had told the jury Wednesday that the stress and embarrassment of the false police report, and her fear of the Easters, left her daughter an outcast at school, her husband suffering panic attacks and her picking up clumps of her own hair she lost due to the anxiety.
* During his testimony Thursday, Kent Easter, who had claimed innocence through his criminal trial and a recent deposition, admitted for the first time he was guilty of the crimes. “You planted drugs in Kelli Peters’ car and tried to get her arrested?” Marcereau asked. “Very stupidly, and unfortunately, yes,” Kent Easter replied.
* Easter also acknowledged for the first time that Peters never did anything wrong. “As you sit here today, you agree that Kelli Peters never tried to hurt your son?” Marcereau asked. “That is correct,” Easter replied. Marcereau's responce: “It’s nice to finally hear you say it.”
* In her only appearance in court Thursday, Everheart denied planting the drugs, even though she cut a plea deal before trial in criminal court where, “I pled guilty to that.” Marcereau shot back, “That wasn’t an answer to my question. Did you do it?” Everheart replied, “No.”
* Given the change of tune since the criminal trial, Kent Easter conceded he was “backpedaling,” saying he also planned to drop an ongoing appeal of his criminal conviction.
* As the Weekly previously reported, Easter also agreed to sizable monthly child custody and spousal support payments in his divorce agreement with Everheart, a week later declared bankruptcy and, before the trial, was granted a stay on the civil suit proceedings. Marcereau said his legal team got the stay lifted.
* “He tried every trick in the book, but we were there for it and had an answer for it,” said Peters' attorney, who during the trial disclosed Easter “quit-claimed” his $1 million home in Irvine to his father-in-law after his arrest and alleged that the defendant was “hiding” assets. He argued that Easter was even pretending to be down-and-out by wearing a pullover sweater to court instead of a suit.
* As an attorney who represented “fraudsters,” Kent Easter was “trained at the shell game,” said Marcereau, who’d sought $8.5 million in damages.
* Easter said he doesn't have the means to pay a large judgment. He is trying to get work as a legal consultant because his law license was suspended, but it's not much and he has been living with his parents while caring for the couple's three children, he told City News Service.
* Easter told jurors, “I never should have hurt Kelli Peters,” and he acknowledged that he would have to pay some sort of damages. “I'm not saying she was not upset, but this is not a million-dollar case,” he argued.
* He also argued he has already been punished by having to serve a six-month jail sentence, perform 100 hours of community service and by losing his law license and career. “I've already paid dearly,” Easter said. “I've lost my law license and career ... and the law says you have to take that into account. ... I'm not able to pay punitive damages. I'm a 41-year-old still living with my parents now. ... I've lost everything I've ever had but my family and I don't see the point of being punished further, but that's up to your judgment.”
* The jury’s judgment? You owe Kelli Peters $5.7 million, bucko.
UPDATE NO. 1, FEB. 5, 7:43 P.M.: A civil jury has awarded $5.7 million to PTA mom Kelli Peters and her family in their lawsuit against Kent Easter and his ex-wife, Ava Everheart, City News Service reports. The Weekly will break it all down Monday morning.
ORIGINAL POST, FEB. 5, 6:33 A.M.: The Weekly recently reported that diabolical drug planting ex-lawyers Kent and Jill Easter were poised to screw over PTA mom Kelli Peters yet again.
That notion was further cemented during the opening of the trial in Peters' lawsuit against the former couple.
For one, we reported that Jill Easter, who legally changed her name to Eva Everheart, may not even attend the trial as a recent post on her Facebook revealed she was in Havana, Cuba (as well as in a new relationship).
Sure enough, she was absent the first day of the trial.
Second, we reported that Kent Easter first agreed to pay $12,000 a month in child and spousal support in his divorce settlement and then declared bankruptcy—setting the stage to plead poverty should Peters prevail in her emotional distress lawsuit and be awarded monetary damages.
Sure enough, based on Paul Anderson's crackerjack reporting for City News Service, here is what Kent Easter's lawyer said during the trial's opening.
"While it was disgusting and shouldn't have happened to [Peters],'' punitive damages should not be awarded.
Oh, forgot to mention: Kent Easter,
who was disbarred whose law license was suspended in California due to his criminal conviction, is representing himself in the lawsuit against him. (Jill Easter was disbarred.)
"You'll hear evidence how I've already been punished," Kent Easter said. "I'm here representing myself because I can't afford an attorney. ... I have
three children to support and you'll hear I won't be able to pay any punitive damages."
He noted he lost his job with one of the county's most prestigious law firms and can no longer practice law, "So this is my last jury trial. And as a felon I'm disqualified from most jobs." He's now a freelance legal consultant, and it's questionable how that will allow him to come up with 12 grand a month, let alone however much a jury might award Peters.
For those who might have missed our coverage, the Easters' war on Peters began in 2010, when Jill showed up to Plaza View School in Irvine to pick up her then first grader son, but he was missing from the lineup of students. When the mom asked Peters, the parent volunteer tasked with rounding up the kids for their rides home, why her son had not been there waiting for her, Peters replied he was "a little slow"—as in tardy catching up with the other children. But Jill Easter took it as Peters saying her child was slow mentally.
A simple misunderstanding led to a yearlong campaign by the Easters—lawyers both—to get Peters fired. They complained that Peters had their son locked in the school and demanded she be fired from her volunteer position.
School officials determined Peters did nothing wrong.
Jill Easter then stood in front of the school handing out fliers to parents demanding Peters' dismissal for all sorts of misdeeds.
That did not work.
The couple filed a police report against Peters.
That went nowhere.
They sought a restraining order against Peters for allegedly stalking their son.
They tried to sue Peters.
As that was going nowhere, it was dropped.
And so, the night of Feb. 15, 2011, the couple planted a bag filled with a marijuana pipe, Vicodin and Percocet behind the driver's seat in Peters' car, and the next day Kent Easter, posing as a neighbor, called police to say he saw Peters drive erratically to the school and that she might have drugs in her car.
An Irvine police officer arrived at the school, saw the bag in the car, fetched Peters, took her to her car and had her open the bag. A dumbfounded Peters was briefly detained, questioned and when things weren't adding up, the cop asked who might do something like this to her.
Peters immediately identified the couple who had terrorized her for a year.
The Easters were arrested and Jill went on to plead guilty, Kent was convicted in a second trial after his first ended in a mistrial and both received jail time, probation and orders to perform community service.
During his 2013 trial Kent indicated he had separated from his wife, who had acknowledged an extramarital affair during her own prosecution, but their divorce settlement filed last month states they separated in December 2015.
Peters, her husband and their daughter, who is now 15, are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from Easter and Everheart, who can still be on the hook even if she does not participate in the trial.
"This case is about justice"—the justice Kelli Peters and her family have been waiting for for four years, their attorney, Rob Marcereau, says in Anderson's report from the trial's opening day.
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"Kent Easter and his wife planned and schemed to destroy the life of Kelli Peters for a year," Marcereau told jurors. "You're going to hear how they tore Kelli Peters' life apart. ... You're going to hear the Easters don't like getting no for an answer."
He said Peters was "humiliated" in front of her daughter and the rest of the school as she was "forced to sit on a curb like a criminal as police searched her car." The stress became so awful for the family, their daughter could not sleep alone and she had to transfer to another school, Marcereau said.
"The point of all this is how much money the Peters' should get," Easter said in his opening remarks, acknowledging that "something bad was done to the Peters, but it doesn't give them a winning Powerball number."
Easter predicted jurors would hear "exaggerations and embellishments" about Peters' encounter with police, which he sought to downplay by noting the PTA mom was not put in a squad car, did not have her mugshot taken, did not spend time behind bars and was "quickly cleared."