See the update at the end of this post on two counts being dropped against Kent Wycliffe Easter to keep his drug-planting case “simple.”
ORIGINAL POST, NOV. 4, 6 A.M.: Orange County's long nightmare is over: A mom/author/inactive attorney pleaded guilty in the case that had her and her yet-to-be-prosecuted lawyer husband planting drugs in the car of a rival mom at their son's Irvine elementary school.
For her plea to false imprisonment, 40-year-old Jill Bjorkholm Easter was formally sentenced to a year in jail, but if she completes 120 days behind bars and 100 hours of community service, that will suffice Orange County Superior Court Judge David Hoffer's conditions.
For reasons I can't quite comprehend, OC Weekly reader interest has been so keen in the case against Jill and Kent Wycliffe Easter that I'd rate them up there with Mike Carona and Greg Haidl. (Sorry, Mox.)
Perhaps it's what the case says about Orange County and the small world of parents of little perceived geniuses taking every move against the Golden Child's eventual Harvard education and successful career as a bond trader, moving income offshore so it does not wind up in the mouths of welfare queens.
Honest to Betsy, I actually felt sorry for District Attorney Tony Rackauckas on this one. When the charges were refiled, causing the original case number to disappear, I received a bunch of emails from folks convinced T-Rack had pulled a fast one to let these avowed Christian Republicans skate without a public hearing. The fearmongers were wrong, of course.
Of course, the bizarre nature of the case was enough to create huge interest. The Irvine Police Department received a phone call around 1:15 p.m. on Feb. 16, 2011, from an anonymous concerned citizen who had just witnessed a woman driving erratically before pulling into an Irvine elementary-school parking lot. It was as if the lady, who walked into the school, was on something, reported the caller.
An Irvine officer arrived at the school, found the woman and got her consent to search her car, which was behind the driver's seat and in plain view displayed a bag with Vicodin, Percocet, marijuana and a recently used pot pipe.
Rather than arresting her, police obtained her consent to search her home, and after some time, it became apparent the mom had been set up. Asked who would ever do such a thing, she thought of the Easters, who had unsuccessfully sued her in Orange County civil court over punishment she had given their son while serving as a schoolyard monitor.
Further investigation revealed the call to police was made from a hotel next to Kent Easter's law office, according to authorities. He's scheduled to be tried next month.
As part of Jill Easter's plea deal, charges of conspiracy to procure the false arrest and charging of the volunteer and conspiracy to false report a crime were dismissed. She is now scheduled to finish her community service with a nonprofit that aids the disabled, but if she fails, she could have to finish her complete one-year jail stretch when she reports Dec. 27, the judge told her last week.
“It's my hope Ms. Easter turns things around,” said Hoffer, according to City News Service's Paul Anderson, who also quotes her attorney, Paul Meyer, saying the plea bargain was a “very fair resolution.''
No one seemed more pleased than the woman Jill Easter hassled and the victim's attorney, Rob Marcereau.
“We're pleased Jill Easter has been found guilty of the most serious felony count she was charged with,” Marcereau said. “Up until now, she has claimed innocence.''
His client and her family, who are suing the Easters in civil court, were also pleased that Jill Easter will do time behind bars “as opposed to home confinement or ankle monitoring,” according to Marcereau, who added they are also pleased as punch Hoffer imposed a restraining order, preventing Irvine's mother from hell from getting near them.
UPDATE, NOV. 5, 9:19 A.M.: Prosecutors on Monday dropped felony charges against Kent Wycliffe Easter of conspiracy and false imprisonment as a matter of legal housekeeping to keep the drug-planting case against him “simple,” according to the prosecutor.
That leaves a second count of false imprisonment against Easter, who still faces up to three years in prison with a conviction, Deputy District Attorney Chris Duff told City News Service.
Jury selection begins today.
Meanwhile, the attorney for the school volunteer who was a victim in the case against the 40-year-old Irvine man and his now-convicted wife disclosed the civil lawsuit against the Easters is on hold until the criminal complaints are resolved. That suit alleges false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress.