Casey Anthony is about to taste freedom. But the sweetness of being outside prison bars for the first time in nearly three years is likely to turn real bitter real fast. A world of potential hurt awaits the 25-year-old former murder defendant, acquitted of taking the life of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, and dumping the baby’s body in swampy woods near the home she shared with her parents, George and Cindy.
“It’s obvious she is the most despised person in America,” says prominent Orlando attorney Mark Nejame, who provided hours of cable-TV commentary on the case. “And especially in Florida and specifically here in Central Florida. People are incensed, and many people have lost all sense of reason. They are very passionate about her acquittal. Her personal well-being is at stake.”
Casey Anthony likely can’t comprehend how deeply the animosity runs. When Anthony steps outside the Orange County Jail in Orlando, her new reality will be stark. She might take the flurry of activity as befitting a celebrity: bright lights, eager reporters with outstretched microphones pressing toward her, and crowds of noisy people being held back by security officers.
Soon, however, Anthony will come to understand that the noise on the outside is from chanting mobs calling for the blood justice they believe should have been delivered in court. Tracy Conroy, a former bodyguard who lived in the Anthony home and who first told her insider’s story to The Daily Beast, told me that Anthony delighted in the media coverage before her arrest. Now she will come to learn it isn’t celebrity that surrounds her but notoriety—the O. J. Simpson type of notoriety that clings for a lifetime and cannot be shed. She may be free, but her personal and legal problems are far from over.
Potential liens and lawsuits could plague her for years.
First, it must be decided where Anthony will live. It’s seems a safe bet she can’t go home again—not after her defense team shred the reputations of her parents, accusing Cindy of being a control freak and George as a longtime incestuous predator. (She refused a prison visit from her mother after her acquittal.) And it’s not likely Anthony’s older brother, Lee, who so tearfully testified about the deep family wounds that shunted him to the side in favor of his pretty little sister, will offer her a place to stay. During the trial, Lee was also painted as a pervert who had sexual designs on his sister.
Anthony’s defense team reports they’ve gotten countless phone, email, and faxed threats, including one with Anthony’s face in the middle of a bull’s-eye target. Twitter followers of the trial are still full of vitriol for Florida’s most infamous murder defendant, many vowing revenge if they ever see her. Asked what he would you do he you came face-to-face with Casey Anthony, Twitter handle DennisLarkin of New York wrote: “Depending on my mood: 'accidentally' a) knock her on her ass or b) knock her on her ass THEN kick her in the head!”
I firmly believe she is in physical danger.
Since her name on an airplane ticket would be quickly revealed, some speculate that Anthony will ultimately be spirited off to a donated safe house somewhere within driving distance. There, she can disappear for a few weeks or months and indulge in her long anticipated makeover, including a cut and color of her prison-grown long hair.
In a series of 50 letters to another inmate at the Orlando County Jail, Anthony wrote how she longed for the small pleasures of “underwear that fit,” manicures and pedicures, and having a pair of tweezers for her brows.
“So, should I go red or blonde?” she asked. “I’m trying to decide how extreme I want to go with my makeover. I will get colored contacts so I can change up my look from time to time. Who is this Casey Anthony you speak of? If you could change your name, any name, what would it be? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.”
Chillingly, Anthony also wrote to inmate Robyn Adams about wanting more children either by pregnancy or adoption. And in the letters, written between 2008 and 2009, she revealed she has a desire to be an author.
“Started writing a foreword to one of my latest creations: the ‘Lovers and Friends’ book, cleverly stating that it’s not your average ‘Kiss-And-Tell’ story. Inquiring minds want to know and boy, are they in for a treat!” She describes the book in another letter as a "partial memoir/comedy/relationship advice book for those not in the know. It's a way to settle many rumors and to share my insight about love, life and most important–God."
But there is the immediate need for Anthony to make some survival money. As O. J. Simpson discovered after his notorious murder acquittal in October 1996 finding a job won’t be easy, and in Casey Anthony’s case it will be even harder. Unlike the NFL pensioner, Anthony has nothing to fall back on. She has no known job skills and no high-school diploma; she’s been branded by her own defense team as a pathological liar; and she apparently has no prospects that don’t come with the threat of a very visible boycott.
Various television network programs like NBC’s Today and ABC’s Good Morning America have put in bids to grab the first interview. Some of the offers come with money and expensive perks attached. There are unconfirmed reports that Anthony has gotten offers of book and movie deals, but THE DAILY BEAST has learned that several media executives have retreated, spooked by the massive blowback waiting for any organization that pays Anthony. (A $1 million offer from a producer for the Jerry Springer TV show was quickly yanked when public outrage became clear.)
In Orlando, Nejame says the smartest thing Casey Anthony can do right now is lie low and stay off the public’s radar. “I absolutely do think she is in danger. I also think people need to follow the law and boycott her and anything that puts a dime in her pocket. She needs to be shunned and not supported in any way. But, that said, some people are so outraged here, I firmly believe she is in physical danger.”
It’s something of a mob mentality. More than 1.2 million people have signed an online petition at Change.org, flabbergasted that Anthony’s failure to report her daughter missing for 31 days was not against any law. The petition calls for establishment of “Caylee’s Law,” which would make it a felony if parents don’t report missing children within the first day. So far, legislators in at least 18 states plan to introduce the idea.
Part of any plans for Anthony’s future must take into account her ominous legal problems. Acting on lead defense attorney Jose Baez’s declaration at trial that Caylee Anthony died right away by accidental drowning, the state filed a motion seeking to have Casey reimburse Orange County law enforcement for the cost of the needless investigation. Texas EquuSearch, which traveled to Florida and launched a $112,000 search effort for the child, has filed suit, asking for damages. So has a woman with the same name as Casey’s imaginary nanny–Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez. She claims Anthony ruined her life, cost her a house, a job, and subjected her to death threats after going public with the name of the supposed kidnapping nanny nicknamed Zanny.
In fact, wherever Anthony ventures, she is expected back in Orlando on Oct. 8 for a sworn and videotaped deposition in the Fernandez-Gonzalez case. If she fails to show, there could be a default judgment against her. Anthony’s lawyers have already moved to have the video sealed from the public. But as attorney Nejame says of her, “If history is an indication, we haven’t seen the last of her. She will turn up again.”