Casey Anthony can stay silent in civil case, judge says

Posted Dec. 29, 2011, at 6:51 p.m.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Because her criminal appeal is still pending, a judge ruled Thursday that Casey Anthony doesn’t have to answer questions in a civil defamation suit brought by Zenaida Gonzalez — for now.

Attorneys for Anthony argued she should be able to assert her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, because she’s appealing her convictions for lying to law enforcement.

Judge Lisa Munyon agreed in a two-page order, writing that courts “have long recognized that the fifth amendment privilege may be properly asserted” during a pending appeal.

Munyon said a deposition in the civil suit would include questions that “bear directly” on one of the appealed counts. Anthony, the judge wrote, has “properly asserted” her rights.

The judge dismissed Gonzalez’s motion to compel Anthony to answer questions. However, she did so “without prejudice,” meaning the issue could be revisited after Anthony’s appeal.

Anthony was acquitted on all major charges in the death of her daughter, Caylee, in July. She was convicted on four counts of lying to law enforcement, and has since appealed.

When Anthony reported Caylee missing in 2008, she told detectives a nanny named Zenaida Fernandez Gonzalez had taken her. They sought out the woman now suing Anthony.

The nanny tale turned out to be concocted, and the real Zenaida Gonzalez filed a lawsuit, arguing Anthony’s stories about the similarly named nanny damaged her reputation.

Munyon also issued an order on Thursday in a separate suit facing Anthony, brought by Texas EquuSearch, a nationally recognized group that helped search for Caylee.

EquuSearch is also seeking to force Anthony to answer questions, on similar grounds. Munyon on Thursday ordered a closed-door hearing to discuss EquuSearch’s motion.

In her order, Munyon writes that she needs “a more detailed explanation of the Defendant’s reasons for asserting her fifth amendment privilege” before ruling on the issue.

EquuSearch wants to be reimbursed for $110,000 the group spent on two multiday searches for 2-year-old Caylee Marie Anthony conducted in September and November 2008.

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