ORLANDO, Fla.—A judge who ordered Casey Anthony back to Florida to serve probation for check fraud stepped down from that case Wednesday and Anthony’s lawyer warned she would be in danger if she has to return from an undisclosed location.
Circuit Judge Stan Strickland recused himself from the case two days after signing an order that Anthony had to report for a one-year-probation term. Strickland did not say why he was removing himself, but Anthony’s defense lawyers had accused him of prejudice after he gave television interviews about Anthony’s acquittal last month in her trial on charges of murdering her child.
Strickland was the original judge assigned to Anthony’s murder trial but he recused himself from the criminal case last year at the request of defense attorneys. Judge Belvin Perry, who presided over Anthony’s murder trial, was taking over the probation case.
Anthony has until 10 a.m. Thursday to report to the Orlando probation office, said Gretl Plessinger, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman.
"We are prepared to begin her probation," Plessinger said.
"Our goal is to treat her like any other probationer."
Unless a judge changes the probation order, there is no way Anthony can avoid reporting to the Orlando intake office. Once she is in the probation system, her address and income information could become a public record unless an exception is made because of safety concerns.
Under the probation terms, Anthony would have to report monthly to a probation officer, avoid drugs, get a job, be prohibited from owning a firearm without her probation officer’s permission and could not associate with criminals, Plessinger said.
Defense attorney Jose Baez told NBC’s "Today" show Wednesday he hoped that Anthony will not have to return to Orlando this week and that his team was seeking an immediate hearing for their motions to quash the judge’s probation order.
Anthony has vanished from public view since her acquittal by a jury in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. She was convicted of lying to detectives but released from jail because of time served. Baez said bringing Anthony back to Orlando would only add to what he called the "circus-like atmosphere" around her case.
Strickland sentenced Anthony in January 2010 to probation after she pleaded guilty to using checks stolen from a friend. The state Department of Corrections had interpreted the sentence to mean that Anthony could serve the probation while she was in jail for her murder trial, but the judge said last week that he intended the probation to be served after her release.
On Monday, Strickland signed a "corrected" version of Anthony’s probation order to make clear she was supposed to start the one-year term after her release from jail.
In a motion filed Tuesday, Baez and his team said Anthony already served her probation while in jail and to have her do so again would be double jeopardy. They said Florida law stipulates the judge cannot amend his sentence more than 60 days after it was signed, which was in January 2010.
But Karin Moore, a law professor at Florida A&M College of Law, said an inmate can’t serve probation while in jail, so Strickland has the ability to correct the sentence.
"He can correct an illegal sentence anytime, which he thinks he is doing now," Moore said.
Anthony’s lawyers also argued in Tuesday’s motion that that Strickland has revealed a prejudice against Anthony in two television interviews he gave after her acquittal last month. They said he is no longer qualified to issue the amended order since he recused himself from Anthony’s criminal case and that the amended order was fraudulently filed since there was no court proceeding attended by Anthony or her attorneys.
"This thing is over and done. And for some reason things seem to keep coming up again for no apparent reason, for absolutely no apparent reason, other than let’s just keep this thing going, let’s just keep this madness going and engage in the circus-like atmosphere that is called the Casey Anthony case," Baez said.
Baez said there were threats against Anthony because of her acquittal and Orange County would have to provide security if she was forced to return. To back up that claim, Anthony’s attorneys included a flyer in their motion that showed a doctored photo of Anthony with a bullet mark on her forehead. Text underneath the photo reads in part, "With a forehead that big, the headshot will be easier."
Baez did not say where she was located, only that she was not in Florida when the judge’s order was signed Monday.