The most monumental case in the history of Orange County–nay, MAN!*–opened Thursday with bombshell details!!! You want for instances, mild-mannered public? Check out these: Drugs were planted in the car of a mom volunteering at an Irvine elementary school because an attorney couple misunderstood her meaning when she referred to their 5-year-old son as being "slow;" the husband allegedly spoke with an Indian accent when he called police on the volunteer and identified himself with the name of an Indian neighbor; and the same hubby royally pissed off his scheming (and since convicted) wife by coming home sick the night of Valentine's Day, when she had planned a romantic night out with her firefighter lover–this revelation coming from the defense!
(* The most monumental case in the history of man is based on the number of emails I receive about the court dates changing amid unfounded fears the district attorney's office is secretly trying to dismiss the most monumental case in the history of man. Pound sand, O.J.!)
For the four of you in the world who do not know about this case and have therefore not emailed me, let us begin by recounting the crime. Jillianne "Jill" Bjorkholm Easter went to pick her son up at Plaza Vista School in Irvine in February 2010 but discovered he was not with the normal group of students lined up waiting for parents.
It was originally reported that the Easters were upset because Kelli Peters, the school volunteer in charge of herding kids for pick-ups, had disciplined their son. But Deputy District Attorney Christopher Duff said during the retrial's opening Thursday that their son was quickly located that day, perfectly fine, but that Jill Easter became enraged when Peters referred to the boy as having been "slow." Peters was saying the lad had lagged behind the other children in lining up for their parents, but Ms. Easter took that as a slur against her boy's intelligence, Duff explained.
And so, the scheme was cooked up to plant marijuana, a pipe, Vicodin and Percocet in Peters' PT Cruiser on Feb. 16, 2011–yes, a year later, with a civil suit having been filed against the school mom by the Easters and tossed by a judge in the interim.
Kent Easter would call Irvine cops from the Island Hotel, which was next to his Newport Center office at the Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth law firm. (He has since formed his own firm.) It's here that we come to the crux of the case alleging felony false imprisonment that could send him to state prison for up to three years.
On the eve of his first trial in November, his wife pleaded guilty to that charge and was sentenced to 120 days in jail and 100 hours of community service, a punishment she completed earlier this year. (And yes, for whoever it was who emailed to ask, her law license was suspended in March, reports City News Service's courtroom watchdog Paul Anderson. She's now a novelist!)
Kent Easter's defense is he did not know his wife had planted the ripping party bag in Peters' car when he called cops in an Apu Nahasapeemapetilon accent–and under the name of someone who had nothing the fuck to do with this twisted enterprise–to say he'd just seen the PTA mom popping pills and driving erratically in her PT Cruiser before parking it at the school.
The report caused police to peer into the car, spot the drugs and go into the school and confront Peters. She swore up and down she knew nothing about the bag, and when an investigator asked if she knew anyone who might want to get her falsely arrested, three guesses and the first two don't count on which over-amped, accusatory power couple immediately sprang to mind …
Anderson reports that during the opening, Thomas Bienert Jr., Kent Easter's attorney, claimed the pushy, adulterous wife of his client–whom he called "Mr. Moderation" and "Mr. Middleground"–forced him to make the call. Suspecting his wife was having an affair and trying to save his marriage, Kent did what she said to please her, Bienert maintained. "Yes, dear, I will call the cops on mean ol' Kelli Peters. Will you stop screwing the fireman now?" Well, that's how I imagine it went.
When it comes to who actually planted the drugs with their own well manicured hands, police and prosecutors will tell you they were able to back-track Kent Easter's Blackberry to the area where Peters' car had been parked hours before he made the call. Bienert has an answer to that: Jill Easter had tried to record an alibi by shooting cell phone video of herself caring for her daughter, who had a rash on her cheek. But her phone would not hold a charge, so she grabbed her husband's Blackberry to record the video–and then carried it with her to plant the drugs in the early morning hours without his ever knowing it. "She didn't want to get caught, but if the evidence came back to the Easters it would come back to Kent, not her," the defense attorney claimed. (See: mind behind the novel detailing the perfect crime.)
Duff isn't buying that defense. He says all evidence points to the Easters together having schemed against Peters for months. When the civil suit didn't work, they turned to drug planting, said the prosecutor, who alleged DNA for both Easters was found on the drugs. Of course, we have yet to hear Bienert's explanation for how wifey-pooh managed to get her cuckold hubby's genetic material on the drugs, but surely we will. But then why would she include her own DNA if she was so careful to use Kent's phone knowing police would track it to him and not her? That doesn't sound like something from the mind behind the novel detailing the perfect crime, does it?
The prosecutor also claims Kent Easter was caught in lies, swearing to investigators that he and his wife never had any run-ins with anyone at the school, specifically denying any conflicts with Peters. Yes, folks, he allegedly said this after the couple had sued Peters. Perhaps it depends on what "is" is.
Duff's got this working for him: Eleven of 12 jurors also did not buy Kent Easter's original defense, voting to convict on Nov. 21.
The retrial is scheduled to resume Tuesday. Brace yourselves, fair citizens.