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Casey declares bankruptcy (talks exclusively to CBS 5)

From Phoenix CBS 5:

“Casey Anthony filed for bankruptcy protection late Friday night in Florida.

This move brings all of Anthony’s civil cases currently under way in Florida state court to a complete halt.

“This is the next step towards closure for me,” said Anthony in a phone conversation Friday evening.

Anthony is listed as a defendant in three civil suits in Orange County, FL. The most notable of those being the suit brought by a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez. Gonzalez claims Anthony defamed her when Anthony told Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies in July 2008 that a fictitious nanny named “Zenaida Fernandez Gonzalez” kidnapped her daughter Caylee.

The Gonzalez lawsuit, brought on behalf of the Orlando-based Morgan and Morgan law firm seeks unspecified damages.

“She needs closure in this matter in order to move on with her life,” said Anthony’s civil attorney, Charles Greene.

In a brief conversation with Anthony on Friday night, she told CBS 5 she was hopeful the Gonzalez case would have been behind her at this point.

The case was originally scheduled to go to trial earlier this month, but attorneys for Gonzalez were granted a continuance by the judge. No new trial date has been set.

“These are the things holding me back,” said Anthony. “This is the key for me to move forward.”

Shortly before the phone conversation with Anthony, Greene was adamant that Anthony would not discuss any of the details surrounding her open legal cases.

The bankruptcy was filed in the Middle District of Florida because Anthony has lived somewhere in central Florida for 180 days. Her parents’ address is listed as her home address, though Greene says that she is not living with them. He says that address was listed because it was her most recent permanent address.

CBS 5 broke the story in September that Anthony had moved out of Florida, but Greene says she left only for a short time and then returned because of logistic and financial reasons.

The publication of this story marks the first time Anthony has spoken with a news reporter on the record since her daughter’s death in 2008.

Despite a ruling from Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals, Anthony’s 5th Amendment protections against self-incrimination still apply because her criminal team has yet to decide if they will file for a rehearing or appeal the outstanding issues to the Florida Supreme Court.

The appeals court Friday tossed out two of the four misdemeanor convictions against Anthony. She was convicted in July 2011 of four counts of lying to law enforcement.

“This (bankruptcy filing) has nothing to do with yesterday’s decision by the 5th Circuit (Court of Appeals),” said Greene. “This document took weeks to prepare. Casey’s legal team has deliberated over this since the trial was continued, and even before then.”

The decision to file for bankruptcy does not mean Anthony’s state court legal issues go away immediately. Attorneys for Zenaida Gonzalez – and others making claims against Anthony – would have to prove to a federal judge the damages they seek are “nondischargeable,” meaning she would owe money despite the bankruptcy filing.

Additionally, according to the bankruptcy documents filed, the possible financial claims against Anthony include:

$500,000 – Attorney Jose Baez

$60,505 – Florida Department of Law Enforcement

$68,540 – Internal Revenue Service

$10,283 – Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation

$145,660 – Orange County Sheriff’s Office

Anthony’s total assets, according to the 60-page filing are listed at less than $1,100 and her liabilities total more than $792,119.

“All the civil cases and people making potential claims have put her (Casey) in a position where bankruptcy is the only option,” says Greene.

The bankruptcy documents list nearly 100 names and organizations that could potentially pursue claims against Anthony. Many of the names included are the defense experts who testified on her behalf during her murder trial.

“The public doesn’t know all the people who have come out of the crawl spaces attempting to make claims against Casey,” said Greene. “There are other lawsuits, other potential claims and her freedom is restricted.”

Those individuals and organizations listed in the bankruptcy document would have to file a claim in federal court in order to get money from Casey Anthony.

Ultimately, that means a bankruptcy judge could be the person who decides the merits of the civil cases against Anthony.

“Casey hoped the (Zenaida Gonzalez) civil case would be over in January. This has been an ongoing battle for close to five years,” said Greene. “Emotionally and physically, she can’t go on for another year. She needs a clean slate from a financial perspective.”

Anthony tells CBS 5 that although she values the close relationship she has with her attorneys, she does not like to be “joined at the hip” with them. She described her legal advisors to be “like family” to her.

“She (Casey) feels it’s unfair for this process to drag on. We were ready to go to trial on Jan. 2, and there’s no new trial date. She wanted be vindicated in the civil (Gonzalez) case,” said Greene.

Anthony will be required to give sworn testimony in the bankruptcy proceedings, but Greene says the scope of questioning is limited to financial matters.

Greene says not to expect any surprises.

“There are no contracts, no movie or book deals,” says Greene.

The goal for anyone going through bankruptcy proceedings is to give a person a “fresh start.” The process from start to finish could take 90 to 120 days, or perhaps longer, depending on the number of people who bring claims against Anthony.”

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Great to see the tide finally turning for Casey as she prepares to move forward with her life.

SJ