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Jury deadlocks, mistrial declared in Kent Easter case

A judge declared a mistrial Thursday in the case against Kent Easter, accused of planting drugs in a school volunteer's car.
November 21, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A deadlocked jury prompted a judge to declare a mistrial Thursday in the case against Kent Easter, an Irvine attorney accused of planting drugs in a school volunteer's car.

Easter alleges it was his now-estranged wife, Jill Easter, who masterminded the plot in February 2011. Jill Easter was sentenced to 120 days in jail in a separate trial.

The jury began deliberating late Tuesday morning. The seven-woman, five-man panel first announced it was deadlocked Wednesday, so Singer sent the panel home for the day in hopes it could break the deadlock today -- but to no avail. The jury foreman said the panel started out 8-3 with one undecided, but shifted to 11-1 in favor of conviction by Wednesday morning.

"Personally I'm very frustrated," said jury foreman Gary Capozzoli. "The group of 11 felt firmly that guilt was there. And unfortunately the lone vote could not be convinced that that was the case."

Easter had testified that the PTA volunteer, Kelli Peters, didn't properly supervise their son at school. He said his wife became obsessed with getting Peters fired.

Easter says that's why he placed a phone call to Irvine police about Peters hiding drugs in her car. He testified that his wife called him at work after reportedly witnessing Peters driving wildly and popping pills. He said she insisted that he called police.

Easter admits he called police under a fake name, but denies knowing it was a false report. Even so, prosecutors allege it was Kent Easter who planted the drugs.

"The detectives, we counted 15 misstatements in that, so in my mind it just became a case of credibility," said Capozzoli. "I stopped believing what he was saying."

"The 11 jurors thought the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and that's one of the things that we'll take into consideration in how we proceed," said prosecutor Christopher Duff.

Kent Easter could have faced up to three years in jail if convicted.

City News Service contributed to this report.