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Judge delays ruling on idea to sell Casey Anthony story rights

Casey Anthony leaves the federal courthouse in Tampa, accompanied by a U.S. marshal after a bankruptcy hearing on March 4.

Associated Press

Casey Anthony leaves the federal courthouse in Tampa, accompanied by a U.S. marshal after a bankruptcy hearing on March 4.

TAMPA —Bob Dylan's music. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s image. O.J. Simpson's tell-all.

They all came up Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court as a judge entertained arguments over whether rights to Casey Anthony's life story should be auctioned to the highest bidder to help pay down $792,000 in debts.

Anthony, 27, acquitted two summers ago of killing her daughter, Caylee, did not attend the hearing, but that didn't stop others from negotiating her future.

As a woman with a high school education and few assets, she will likely want to "monetize" her "tragic" tale of having a child, losing a child and spending four years in jail. That's what Allan Watkins, attorney for bankruptcy trustee Stephen Meininger, told Judge K. Rodney May.

"This is an unusual case," Watkins said. "This story has commercial value and, ironically, the people who gave it commercial value are creditors in this bankruptcy case who succeeded in gaining Ms. Anthony her acquittal."

Anthony owes criminal defense lawyer Jose Baez $500,000, she reported in her bankruptcy filing.

Under the trustee's proposal, Anthony wouldn't be forced to tell her life story, Watkins said. Selling her "right to publicity" would require no indentured servitude, he said. And she wouldn't be barred from telling the story to friends.

"What we're not seeking to do is muzzle Miss Anthony," he said.

But Debra Ferwerda, an attorney for Anthony, said that selling the rights would give control of her life to a stranger and would eviscerate the concept of an "unencumbered fresh start" typically afforded by bankruptcy.

One possible stranger: James Schober. A lawyer in Austin, Texas, he listened to the hearing by conference call. He has offered to pay $10,000 for rights to Anthony's story, chiefly to keep her from profiting over it.

"Mr. Schober's stated purpose is to punish Ms. Anthony for a crime she was acquitted of," her attorney said.

When it was Schober's turn to speak, he said his purpose wasn't to punish Anthony but to keep her from telling the story for personal gain.

He may not get a chance.

Someone else has offered $12,000, Watkins told the judge, and a third offer was in the works.

Judge May opened the hearing by predicting he would need time for after-hours research before ruling on what he called a "cutting-edge issue."

After hearing the arguments, he said he is skeptical of the trustee's idea, which "could be viewed as an injunction dressed up as a sale."

But he also noted that the bankruptcy estate is so small at this point that creditors will get "fractions of 1 percent" on their claims.

He told the attorneys he would rule in 30 days.

Patty Ryan can be reached at pryan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3382.

Judge delays ruling on idea to sell Casey Anthony story rights 04/09/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 10:42pm]
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