"Nanny" defamation case resumes against Casey Anthony

NEW YORK Thu Jul 7, 2011 2:12pm EDT

Casey Anthony (L) speaks with her attorney Dorothy Clay Sims during her sentencing at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, July 7, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Burbank/Pool

Casey Anthony (L) speaks with her attorney Dorothy Clay Sims during her sentencing at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Florida, July 7, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Burbank/Pool

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Now that Casey Anthony has been found not guilty of murdering her daughter Caylee, she faces a civil lawsuit from a woman who says Anthony falsely accused her of kidnapping the girl.

Even though Anthony identified the nanny she accused of abducting the child by name in statements to police, legal experts said the defamation suit brought by Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez is unlikely to go far.

Anthony has said in court filings that the nanny she identified was a different Zenaida Gonzalez with a different car and fewer children than the plaintiff.

In order to prevail, Fernandez-Gonzalez will have to prove that Anthony identified her specifically, legal experts said.

"If Casey Anthony was talking about someone else, and there's no proof otherwise, then the case will ultimately be dismissed," said Stuart Slotnick, a defense lawyer with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in New York, who is not involved in the case.

Tuesday's verdict is not likely to affect the defamation suit one way or another, Slotnick said.

The jury convicted Anthony of four counts of providing false information to law enforcement and acquitted her of murder, manslaughter and child abuse charges. During the trial, Anthony's lawyer conceded that she had fabricated the story she told police about the nanny.

Fernandez-Gonzalez also faces the challenge of proving that she was harmed. Her lack of credibility weakens the defamation claim, said Jonathan Kasen, who previously represented Anthony in the defamation case. If no one believes a nanny kidnapped the child, then the plaintiff was not damaged or defamed, Kasen said.

Fernandez-Gonzalez's attorney, John Morgan, said there was "nothing imaginary" about the harm his client suffered when police came to her apartment and questioned her about the disappearance of a child. She lost her job, was forced to move out of her apartment complex and received death threats against her and her children, he said.

Morgan said he had received thousands of e-mails since the jury's decision came down on Tuesday. "America's very upset about the verdict," he said. Significant work will be required to select an unbiased jury for the civil case, he said.

Anthony's current attorney in the civil case, Charles Greene, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In court filings, Anthony has said Fernandez-Gonzalez's lawsuit was a "frivolous" attempt to "cash in" on the publicity surrounding her high-profile murder trial.

Fernandez-Gonzalez's lawsuit was filed in 2008 and placed on hold pending resolution of the murder case. Within hours of Tuesday's verdict, Morgan served Anthony with papers seeking her deposition. Anthony's deposition is scheduled for July 19.

The defamation suit was filed in the Ninth Circuit court in Orange County, Florida.

(Reporting by Terry Baynes; Editing by Greg McCune)

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Comments (3)
cbmtrx wrote:
It’s indeed difficult NOT to pass judgement on a stranger when said stranger lied repeatedly to authorities surrounding the disappearance and cause of death of her child, the kidnapping of said child, and spending most of her time, according to all evidence offered so far, before her arrest in various modes of recreation possessing full knowledge of the truth and seriousness of her actions (or inactions).

I don’t believe in any god but I doubt her soul is a peaceful one. Let her conscience damn her.

Jul 07, 2011 2:57pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Randy549 wrote:
Fortunately, the burden of proof in a civil case like this is much lower — “a preponderance of the evidence” — rather than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” it would be in a criminal case. All that Fernandez-Gonzalez should need to show evidence of is that Casey’s actions led to her being harmed (which, according to the article, they seemingly did, e.g. loss of job, eviction from her residence, death threats).

Jul 07, 2011 11:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
deedee123 wrote:
Her Conscience? I don’t think Casey has one! And why shouldn’t Gonzales sue? If not for money then for the principle!

Jul 07, 2011 12:28am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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