SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) —A man charged with planting drugs in the car of a PTA volunteer “didn’t have a backbone when it came to his wife,” his attorney said Wednesday as opening statements got underway in his trial.
Attorney Thomas Bienert Jr. said his client, Kent Easter, was pushed around by his wife, Jill Easter, who goaded him into making a phone call to police in connection with an attempt to set up Kelli Peters in 2011.
“This is a case of a trusting husband. No more, no less. But it’s also a case that’s sadly, as we’ve all learned after the fact, about a dishonest wife,” Bienert said.
Prosecutor Christopher Duff had a different version of events.
“It’s my belief that the defense will call Jill Easter. And that’s their prerogative,” he said. “I don’t know what she’s going to say. She’s probably going to say she did everything and everything is her fault.”
Jill Easter recently pleaded guilty to false imprisonment in connection with the matter and will report to jail at the end of December.
Duff told the jury that security tape of Kent Easter, cell phone records, the suspect’s DNA on the drugs and a recorded call to Irvine police all prove that Kent — along with his estranged wife, a budding crime novelist — were both involved in the crime.
Authorities contend that Kent, an Irvine attorney, called police using a phony name and fake accent to disguise himself. He told the dispatcher that drugs could be found in Peters’ car in the parking lot at Plaza Vista Elementary School, which the Easters’ son attended.
The defense didn’t dispute that Kent made the call, but said that was his only involvement.
Kent contends he had no previous knowledge that the drugs were planted and took no part in it.
According to the defense, his wife was to blame for the situation.
“By the end of this trial, you’re going to see that while Kent was a very good human being, he didn’t have a backbone when it came to his wife,” Bienert said. “She wore the pants in the family. She pushed him around.”
KCAL9’s Michele Gile reported that the Easters split up because of her alleged affair, and that Kent lost his job at a prestigious law firm.
Peters was the first witness on the stand Wednesday. In a 2011 interview, she recounted what happened when police detained her at the elementary school.
“What I saw was marijuana, but I turned my back after that, ‘cause I was sorta looking around to think … I thought maybe it was a joke,” she said.
Peters was held for two hours. According to the district attorney, Irvine police detectives quickly realized something was fishy and began looking into the actions of the Easters.