Casey Anthony may have been acquitted on July 5 of murdering her young daughter, but her release from a Florida prison this Sunday may be the start of a whole different kind of trial for the 25-year-old. To many of the millions who were riveted for weeks by this legal drama, she is far from innocent. The pent-up public animosity toward Anthony is palpable. She faces threats of physical violence, financial challenges, multiple lawsuits and the ongoing challenge of having one of the most recognized and despised faces in the U.S.
Even among those who don't believe Anthony killed her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, the image portrayed of her during the trial was of a manipulative woman who behaved callously after the disappearance of her child. She may wind up a free woman in name only, shackled instead to a devastating reputation created during her many months in the national spotlight.
Anthony's first concern will be staying safe. Florida officials took precautions to protect her during the trial and law-enforcement officials will continue to do so, in some measure, as long as there is a credible threat, but it's unclear how long that will last. Certainly it's possible that public vitriol against Anthony could outlast Orange County's resources. Immediately after the not-guilty verdict, outrage spilled into social media, with hundreds of death threats being hurled in Anthony's direction via Twitter and Facebook.
The blast of revulsion aimed at Anthony sometimes didn't even make it to the right state, let alone the right person. According to the ABC affiliate in Darby, Pa., a 43-year-old man, who is also named Casey Anthony, received more than 300 death threats on Facebook intended for the woman in a Florida prison. Emotions are running so high over this case that Orange County law enforcement may schedule Anthony's release for late in the night in an attempt to mitigate the crowds at what could be a volatile scene.
And while the ire may be at its worst in Florida, there are few places in the country Anthony could go where people wouldn't know her face and the many ugly details about her life revealed by both the defense and prosecution during the trial. She has been the subject of magazine covers and wall-to-wall coverage on network and cable news. Early reports that Anthony may try to move out of state and live under an assumed name prompted the lawyers in one of the biggest lawsuits against her to file an emergency motion to compel her to appear at a deposition in Orlando just three days after she is released.
Anthony is being sued by a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez for defamation stemming from one of the lies Anthony told police. After Cindy Anthony, Casey Anthony's mother, reported that Caylee was missing, Casey Anthony told investigators that she had been working at Universal Studios (a lie) and that she had been leaving the 2-year-old in the care of a nanny named Zenaida Gonzalez (another lie). The press covering the case dubbed Gonzalez "the Zanny," but when investigators tracked Gonzalez down, she said she had never met Casey Anthony.
Lawyers for Gonzalez have already served Anthony with a subpoena to appear at a deposition on July 19. They cited "a good-faith basis that the defendant, Casey Anthony, will leave the jurisdiction of the court, disguise herself, change her name, etc., making it impossible to ever depose her," and insist that she be forced to appear. Judge Jose Rodriguez of Florida's Ninth Circuit Court set a hearing for Friday, but Anthony's civil attorney, Charles Greene, has filed a motion to block the hearing. Greene said that Anthony was "emotionally and mentally exhausted" from the grueling trial, and that if deposed, she would invoke her Fifth Amendment rights and not answer questions.
Even if Greene manages to stave off that deposition, Anthony is also being sued by Texas EquuSearch, a nonprofit group that helped conduct the massive manhunt for Caylee when it was believed the toddler was still alive. The group is demanding $100,000 for the money spent on the search. Even if the lawsuit isn't successful, Anthony will be paying for legal counsel for quite some time, on top of the legal fees she accumulated during the nearly three-year case.
But the news isn't entirely bad for Anthony. While many were enraged by the verdict, she has a fair number of admirers. Since her trial started, she has received money orders in prison, many from men offering to take care of her. According to ABC News, the offers range from the sympathetic to the downright bizarre. "If she ever did contact me and wanted to live in the middle of nowhere, I have three houses out here," said Gary Bradfield, a Texan who sent Anthony $99.40.
Freelance television producer Al Taylor, who has worked for The Jerry Springer Show, offered Anthony $1 million for her first interview. Springer's publicist immediately denied that the talk show had anything to do with the offer, but Taylor vowed to press on, start his own TV production company and pay Anthony $1 million for the interview.
Whether Casey Anthony writes a book, does a TV mea culpa or allows someone to play her in a movie, she'll still have to face the court of public opinion every day, at the supermarket, at the hair salon and if she ever attempts to get a job. Her more than 1,000 days in prison awaiting trial, and serving another two weeks for lying to investigators, may look pleasant compared with the legal hurdles and the public rage she faces on the outside.