Man sent to jail for actions during Casey Anthony trial

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 26, 2011 6:15 PM
Man sent to jail for actions during Casey Anthony trial

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - Casey Anthony is no longer in jail, but an Orlando man landed there on Tuesday for violating rules designed to manage the large crowds drawn to the courthouse during her murder trial.

Mark Schmidter, a 64-year-old roofing contractor, was found guilty of two counts of indirect criminal contempt for handing out leaflets on June 29 seeking to sway members of juries and for doing so outside of specially marked "free speech zones" created for Anthony protesters and supporters.

Judge Belvin Perry sentenced Schmidter to 151 days in jail after a brief trial.

Perry had also presided over Anthony's trial, which became a national phenomenon carried live by television networks and endlessly debated by media personalities. During the trial, the judge limited free speech at the courthouse to two taped-off areas.

Anthony, 25, was acquitted on July 5 of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee in 2008 but was convicted of lying to the law enforcement officers who searched for Caylee.

She received a four-year jail sentence, and was released on July 17 after getting credit for time served awaiting trial and good behavior while in jail.

Schmidter's lawyer, Adam Sudbury, said his client belongs to a group that believes in jury nullification, or jury pardon, which occurs when jurors decide to find someone not guilty because they believe the underlying charge is unfair.

Sudbury told Reuters that Schmidter had been handing out brochures regularly at the courthouse front door since 2010, and did not encounter the Anthony jury which, under tight security, did not use the front door.

"This has everything to do with he got wrapped up in the circus that was the Casey Anthony trial. He got swept up in the whirlwind rather than he sought out the whirlwind," Sudbury said.

Sudbury said the special restrictions on free speech during the Anthony trial were "highly unusual," sweeping and confusing. The attorney said he would appeal the verdict against Schmidter and seek bail for his client in the meantime.

Asked for Schmidter's opinion on the Anthony verdict, Sudbury said he had no idea.

"Mark? I don't know. To be perfectly honest, I've never discussed it with him," Sudbury said.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston)