The wife of an Irvine man accused of plotting against a PTA volunteer at their son’s school and having her arrested masterminded the scheme, his attorney said Wednesday in closing arguments.
Kent Wycliff Easter, 40, is accused of felony false imprisonment for his alleged role in having school volunteer Kelli Peters arrested after he called police to report her driving erratically and carrying drugs in the back seat.
His wife, Jill Bjorkholm Easter, 40, who was accused of planting drugs in the car, pleaded guilty last month to false imprisonment.
The case stems from a 2010 disagreement between Jill Easter and Peters, in which Jill Easter was upset the after-school volunteer did not bring her son out when she went to pick him up.
But Kent Easter had no idea his wife, who was having an affair at the time of the incident, had planted the drugs, said his attorney, Tom Bienert.
Kent Easter was coerced by his wife to report the drugs she had claimed to have seen in the back of Peters’ car, Bienert said in a Santa Ana courtroom.
“Kent Easter was a trusting husband, what he wasn’t was a standup to his wife,” Bienert said. “By the end of the trial, you will see that Kent was a good human being who didn’t have a backbone against his wife, she wore the pants in the family.”
In fact, Kent Easter was in bed and taking medication the night of Feb. 16, 2011, when his wife planted bags with marijuana, a used marijuana pipe, Vicodin and Percocet in the car, Bienert said.
The next afternoon, Kent Easter called an Irvine police non-emergency line from a public phone at a hotel, giving authorities a false name and address. Officials say Kent Easter told the dispatcher he was a concerned parent and had seen erratic driving near an elementary school.
Prosecutors allege Kent Easter remained in constant contact with his wife through calling and texting as their alleged plot unfolded.
The pair has separated but not filed for divorce, Bienert said.
Jill Easter had access to marijuana and Kent's DNA, which was found on the drugs and bags, he said.
"Everything here was under the control of Jill Easter," the attorney said. "There is nothing here that couldn't have been used and, in fact, wasn't used by her."
“I’m absolutely confident after hearing the evidence that you’ll agree Kent was not guilty of intentionally and unlawfully having anyone imprisoned,” Bienert said at the end of his closing arguments.
Flores writes for the Los Angeles Times.