A spat between parents that just made its way through the court system is making Dance Moms–fighting look like kindergarten this week.
It ended on Friday, when a California jury awarded former PTA president Kelli Peters $5.7 million in damages after two furious parents attempted to frame her by planting marijuana and pills in her car.
The now-divorced lawyer couple behind the revenge scheme — Kent Easter and Ava Everheart (née) Jill Easter, pictured above — will have to pay nearly $4 million of the amount themselves.
Easter, 41, who represented himself in the trial, told City News Service that the damage award was “mind-boggling,” but he declined further comment, according to OC Weekly on Monday. Everheart was not at the courthouse to hear the verdict.
“This was really not about money, this was about standing up to people that pick on other people and telling them it’s not OK to do this,” Easter said in court about the strange rivalry, which began five years ago. “I feel like justice has been served.”
It all started in 2010, after Everheart confronted Peters because Everheart’s then-7-year-old son was not waiting for her outside his school in Irvine one day for pickup. Peters, the parent volunteer in charge of rounding up kids for their rides home, told Everheart her son was “a little slow” in getting outside — which the mom took as meaning he was mentally slow, according to OC Weekly. Things quickly devolved from there.
Over the next year, Everheart accused Peters of stalking her son and demanding Peters be removed from her post. The school said it Peters had done nothing wrong, and took no action against her. So in 2011, Everheart and Easter planted pot and prescription pills in Peters’ car. Then Easter called the cops, using a fake name and Indian accent, saying Peters had been driving erratically on school grounds. It led to Peters being detained for police questioning for about two hours, with her daughter seeing the whole thing.
“I was crying and begging for him to not put the [discovered] drugs on the car, because people would see it,” Peters reportedly said during her trial. “Everybody was looking at me and I felt very humiliated.” She was never charged for any crime.
When asked in court if he planted the drugs on Peters, Easter replied, “Very stupidly, and unfortunately, yes.”
Peters told the jury this week that the stress and embarrassment of the false police report, and her fear of the couple, made her daughter an outcast at school, caused her husband to suffer panic attacks, and created enough anxiety of her own that she lost clumps of her hair.
Easter also noted he’d already been punished enough by having to serve a six-month jail sentence, perform 100 hours of community service and by losing his career. “I’ve already paid dearly,” Easter said. “I’ve lost my law license and career … and the law says you have to take that into account. … I’m not able to pay punitive damages. I’m a 41-year-old still living with my parents now. … I’ve lost everything I’ve ever had but my family and I don’t see the point of being punished further, but that’s up to your judgment.” The decision had him — and his ex — paying up.
(Top photo: Orange County District Attorney)