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Caylee Searchers Sue; Padilla Vows to Target Attorney BaezBy Chris Rizo Special to Salem-News.com
“The organization is considering bringing claims against any person that might be civilly liable for the damages it suffered in expending a tremendous amount of monetary- and human resources on a search that, unfortunately, was unnecessary,” - Plaintiffs’ attorney Marc Wites
(SACRAMENTO) - A search -and-rescue group this week filed a lawsuit in Florida amid claims it spent over $100,000 looking for two-year-old Caylee Anthony in intensive but futile efforts in 2008.
Texas EquuSearch Mounted Search and Recovery (TES) filed a civil action July 12, alleging unjust enrichment by Caylee’s mother, Casey Anthony.
Filed in the Circuit Court of the 9th Judicial Circuit in Orange County, the lawsuit seeks to recoup expenditures the nonprofit organization made under belief from the mother that her toddler was missing.
The TES complaint alleges that Casey Anthony fraudulently represented to the organization that Caylee was a missing person, not dead, as she testified in criminal court.
“But for the misrepresentations regarding Caylee's whereabouts and her status, TES would not have dedicated its resources to search for Caylee, but could have used them to conduct searches for other worthy families who were trying to locate their missing loved ones,” the TES complaint read.
In an interview, TES founder Tim Miller said Casey Anthony and possibly others knew that the group’s expensive search operations were all for naught, yet allowed expenditures to accrue.
“We certainly have receipts totaling in excess of $112,000 right now. We don’t want anything more than we spent,” said Miller, whose 16-year-old daughter, Laura, was kidnapped and murdered in 1984.
Meanwhile, celebrity bounty hunter Leonard Padilla of Sacramento, Calif., has said he will file a complaint seeking relief of $200,000, to recoup search costs he paid in addition to bills for travel, private investigators and security firms.
Padilla thrusted himself into the nationally watched case in August 2008, when he and a bail-agent nephew posted a $500,000 bail on charges of child neglect and filing a false report. At the time, Padilla expressed optimism that once out from behind bars, Anthony would help teams locate her daughter.
Padilla was left disappointed and continued his own search effort. Padilla has since expressed personal regret for positing the bail bond.
Padilla said he will file a $200,000 lawsuit suit against Casey Anthony and her lead criminal defense lawyer, José Baez, to recoup search costs he paid in addition to expenses on travel, private detectives and security firms. Like Miller, Padilla said do-gooders trying to find Caylee were defrauded.
Miller, whose group joined the search in July 2008, said recouping the group’s expenses would allow EquuSearch, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, to fulfill its mission to help find missing persons.
"Unfortunately," he added, "the time the group spent looking for Caylee amounts to a wasted four months and a misspent $112,000."
For litigation against Anthony and possibly others, EquuSearch retained plaintiffs’ attorney Marc Wites, a named shareholder in Wites & Kapetan P.A. of Lighthouse Point, Fla.
In an interview last week, Wites signaled that his client might cast a wide legal net to recoup its expenses.
“The organization is considering bringing claims against any person that might be civilly liable for the damages it suffered in expending a tremendous amount of monetary- and human resources on a search that, unfortunately, was unnecessary,” he said.
Casey Anthony was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse weeks after her daughter’s disappearance. The girl's grandparents reported her disappearance 31 days after she went missing.
Miller said he “never even considered” the possibility Caylee was not, in fact, missing.
“I had no idea until his opening statement,” Miller said. “It was like, my god, we were misled.”
At trial, Anthony’s defense team argued Caylee had died June 16, 2008, after accidentally drowning in the family’s backyard pool.
Prosecutors, however, alleged that Anthony smothered her daughter June 16, 2008, storing the body in her car trunk before dumping it in the wooded area in Orlando, Fla. On Dec. 11, 2008, the girl’s skeletal remains were found.
After nearly three years in jail, Anthony was acquitted of murdering her three-year-old daughter. If convicted of murder, she would have faced the death penalty.
The seven-woman, five-man jury, which had been sequestered for the trial, returned their not-guilty verdict after nearly 11 hours of deliberations.
Jose Baez of the Baez Law Firm in Kissimmee, Fla., was Anthony’s lead defense attorney at trial. Co-counsel for Anthony was the prominent Orlando attorney J. Cheney Mason.
Anthony is scheduled to be released from prison July 17, after being held 10 days for a conviction on four misdemeanor charges of lying to police investigators.
Ninth Judicial Circuit Court Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. sentenced Anthony to four consecutive one-year sentences, with credit for time served and a reduction for her good behavior while incarcerated. The judge also fined her $1,000 for each count.
Upon release, Casey Anthony will have confronting her a bevy of civil suits. In addition to the civil claim by EquuSearch, the promised lawsuit from Padilla, there is potentially huge dollar-amount suit filed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to recoup costs of the investigation.
The State Attorney's Office has asked the court to order Casey liable for payment of costs incurred by Orange County, which should amass a fortune.
Then there is the long-running defamation suit filed by Zenaida Gonzalez, a woman who shares the name of the nanny Casey Anthony had accused of kidnapping her daughter.
The reporter is based in Sacramento, where he covers insurance litigation.
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