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Posted: August 5, 2011 12:33 p.m.

Judge delays Anthony probation status decision

ORLANDO, Fla. - A judge deciding whether Casey Anthony has to return to Florida to serve probation for check fraud ended a hearing Friday without a ruling, calling the case "a mess."

"The best I can say is this is a legal maze," Judge Belvin Perry said.

A court spokeswoman said Perry likely would issue a ruling next week. Anthony didn't attend the hearing, which involves a case separate from her high-profile murder trial that ended with her acquittal last month.

Anthony has disappeared from the public eye since a jury found her not guilty in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, and she was released from the Orange County Jail. Her lawyers have not disclosed her location except to say she was out of state earlier this week.

Another judge sentenced her in January 2010 to one year of probation after she pleaded guilty to using checks stolen from a friend. Judge Stan Strickland said during that sentencing hearing that Anthony should serve the probation upon her release from prison or jail. But those instructions never made it into a written order and corrections officials interpreted the sentence to mean Anthony could serve the probation while she was in jail awaiting her murder trial.

Strickland issued an amended order earlier this week, clarifying that Anthony needs to start serving probation now that she is out of jail.

Perry said he has to consider whether he has jurisdiction to correct "a scrivener's error," or the mistake that was made when Strickland's oral instructions were omitted from the written order.

"So far, I have not been able to find anything that has dealt with this particular situation ... anywhere," Perry said. "This is a legal morass. If anything could go wrong, it went wrong here."

Anthony's attorneys argued at the hearing that Anthony already has served the probation and to do so again would be double jeopardy. They also argued that Strickland didn't have jurisdiction over the case anymore and that his original sentencing order could not be corrected more than 60 days after it was issued. A probation supervisor testified by telephone that Anthony completed her probation in jail without any problems.

"She has completed and already served the sentence," said defense attorney Lisabeth Fryer. "This is done. This is over."

Prosecutor Frank George told Perry that the judge has the power to amend the probation order and that there would be no double jeopardy if he did so.

"It would be a jeopardy issue if modification had a punitive effect," George said. "Judge Strickland isn't adding any sentence. He is merely correcting a scrivener's error."

 

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