An attorney for the Irvine father who is accused of helping his wife set up a PTA volunteer in a fake drug bust said Monday that the man was used like a puppet by his wife and had no idea he was helping frame someone.
Kent Easter, 40, is accused of felony false imprisonment for his alleged role in having school volunteer Kelli Peters arrested after he called police in 2011 to report that she was driving erratically and had drugs in her car.
His wife, Jill Easter, 40, who was accused of planting the drugs, pleaded guilty in October to false imprisonment and will probably serve time in jail.
But prosecutors maintain that Kent Easter was in on the scheme.
It wouldn’t be the first time Kent Easter was unaware of his wife’s plans, defense attorney Thomas Bienert told jurors, speaking at length about Jill Easter's alleged affair with a married man.
He also questioned Jill Easter's mental stability, saying that his client had a spouse who “lost her marbles” and that he hopes “she’s getting treatment.”
Kent Easter was merely a trusting husband who was duped by his wife into making a false 911 phone call to police, his attorney said.
The incident stems from a 2010 disagreement between Jill Easter and PTA volunteer Kelli Peters, in which Jill Easter said the after-school volunteer did not bring her son out quickly enough when she went to pick him up at Plaza Vista Elementary.
After the incident, the Easters tried to get Peters fired, got a restraining order and filed a lawsuit against the volunteer, prosecutors said.
In a recording of the February 2011 call to police, Kent Easter is heard saying that he saw Peters driving erratically and using drugs. He used a fake name, spoke in a faux Indian accent and said he had a daughter, not a son, at Plaza Vista Elementary, prosecutors said.
“Does that really sound like something you can think of off the top of your head?” prosecutor Christopher Duff said in his closing statements.
“The defendant knew that call was fake. People lie to the police for a reason, to cover up their guilt,” Duff said.
Officers found a bag of marijuana, pills and marijuana pipe in the back seat of Peters' car. The Easters' DNA was found on the pills and pipe, but not Peters’, prosecutors said.
“The Easters were caught red-handed,” Duff said.
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Flores writes for the Los Angeles Times.