The Lookout

Taxpayers foot bill for Casey Anthony defense

Chris Lehmann
The Lookout

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Casey Anthony on the night of her July 17 release (AP/John Raoux)

No one knows where Casey Anthony is, but America's most notorious recent murder defendant doesn't have to fret about her legal bills reaching her.

That's because $119,000 in defense fees racked up during her trial—which produced a shocking not-guilty verdict in her home jurisdiction of Orlando, Fla., earlier this month—have been picked up by Florida taxpayers. The same is true for another pending $5,800 in fees that Anthony's attorney Jose Baez has billed to his client's case, putting the overall taxpayer tab at just shy of $125,000.

Public coffers have been covering the costs of Anthony's defense since March 2010, when she declared herself indigent. Anthony was standing trial for the murder of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, whose remains had been found on land near their home after Casey had misled police investigators with a false account of Caylee's purported kidnapping by a nanny. Casey Anthony had been sentenced to four years for providing false statements to the police. But after the three years she had served in custody while awaiting trial, her post-verdict sentence was just two weeks, and she was released on July 17.  Then she went promptly into hiding; all her attorney Baez indicated to Orlando station WKMG is that "She's not here in Orlando."

Wherever Anthony may be, it's a safe bet that either Baez or some other deal-making surrogate is forwarding her a fair number of  media offers. The moment the Orlando jury handed down its controversial July 5 acquittal, legal and media insiders began speculating that Anthony could command seven-figure fees for high-profile interviews with media figures such as Oprah Winfrey or Katie Couric. Though the same cautioned that an such agreement would come with a high risk of backlash for both contracting parties. "She could probably get $1 million from an outlet—it could be a network or a tabloid magazine," Hollywood communications expert Michael Levine told Fox News. "But I wouldn't recommend she do that, because she's such an unsympathetic figure and a known liar."

And sure enough, even "The Jerry Springer Show"—long viewed as the hands-down winner in the tawdry race to the bottom in the daytime TV talk market—leapt in promptly to squelch a rumor that it had offered $1 million for an Anthony appearance. Baez, too, lost his own contract with a talent agency following the public furor that arose from that reported deal. There's also a central social-media destination for people keen to block the prospect of Anthony profiting from her renown: a Facebook page titled "Boycott Casey Anthony Media Deals."

What's more, even if Anthony should land a lucrative book or TV contract, there's no guarantee that she'd ever see the actual profits.  Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzales, a woman who actually possesses the name that Anthony used to identify the fictitious nanny she claimed had kidnapped her daughter, has sued Anthony for defamation. And Fernandez-Gonzales' attorneys are demanding that they be permitted to review any prospective media deals Anthony may sign in order to assess prospective damages in the suit.

There is, however, at least one feel-good moment in this particular chapter of the sordid Anthony saga: Since Fernandez-Gonzales has filed a civil suit, there's no way the state of Florida would be stuck footing the bill for Anthony's legal fees this time.

Fox News' legal analyst explains more about why taxpayer dollars are going to protect Anthony below:

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