Judge: Defamation lawsuit against Casey Anthony can go forward

Story highlights

  • Zenaida Gonzalez has sued Casey Anthony for defamation
  • Anthony told police a nanny by that name had disappeared with her daughter
  • The girl was later found dead; Anthony was acquitted of murder in her daughter's death
  • A judge points to "disputed" matters in the defamation suit that a jury should decide
A Florida judge ruled Thursday that a woman's defamation lawsuit against Casey Anthony can go forward, contending that a jury should make the final decision on several contentious issues critical to the case.
Zenaida Gonzalez has filed a civil suit against Casey Anthony, who was acquitted last year of murder and other charges tied to the death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee though she was convicted on four counts of providing false information to law enforcement officers.
Gonzalez alleges that Anthony defamed her and damaged her reputation when she claimed that a nanny named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez had taken Caylee, who was reported missing in July 2008 -- a month after she was last seen. The girl's remains were found in December of that year.
Authorities were never able to find the nanny. But they did find Gonzalez, the plaintiff in this case, who claimed she never met Anthony or her daughter.
Anthony's civil attorneys have argued that their client never identified the specific woman suing her as the "Zenaida Gonzalez," the name she gave police.
In her judgment Thursday, Circuit Judge Lisa Munyon ruled that the critical issue of whether or not Anthony -- in her statements to police and in a recorded jailhouse conversation with her parents -- fingered Gonzalez, the plaintiff, or effectively exonerated her in her daughter's disappearance "must be decided by a jury."
"Both parties agree that the defendant did not implicate (Gonzalez) in the disappearance of the child in the July 16, 2008, statements to law enforcement," Munyon wrote in her ruling. "However, the inferences to be drawn from the July 25, 2008, statement (to her parents) are disputed matters for jury determination."
Moreover, Gonzalez's assertion that Casey's mother Cindy Anthony was "acting as (an) agent of" her daughter is likewise "a disputed matter for jury determination."
Munyon's ruling followed a March 23 hearing in Orlando, Florida, in which Gonzalez's lawyers called for a "summary judgment" in their client's favor and Anthony's defense team argued for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
The defamation trial is scheduled to begin January 2, 2013.