Former PTA President Wins $5.7 Million After Being Framed For Drug Possession

By Keri Blakinger 02/08/16

Kelli Peters received a major payout after enduring five years of legal wrangling. 

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Former PTA President Wins Lawsuit After Being Framed For Drug Possession
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A California jury awarded a woman $5.7 million in damages on Friday for a failed frame-job back in 2011 when an angry couple planted pills and pot in her car. Kelli Peters, former PTA president won the sum after nearly five years of legal wrangling. 

The problems started in 2010, when Jill Easter’s son, then 7, was late coming outside to meet her afterschool. When Peters explained that Jill’s son was “a little slow” in getting out, the angry mom took it as an insult, according to the OC Weekly

Things went downhill over the course of the next year and eventually Jill demanded Peters’ resignation after accusing the PTA president of stalking her son. The school disagreed with the accusation and took no action.

Then, in 2011, Jill and her husband Kent—both lawyers—decided to exact their revenge by framing Peters. They planted marijuana and prescription pills in the woman’s car and then, using a fake name, Kent called the cops with an erratic driving complaint. 

Police showed up and searched the vehicle. 

“I was crying and begging for him to not put the drugs on the car, because people would see it,” Peters said during the trial. “Everybody was looking at me and I felt very humiliated.”

Fortunately, Peters was not charged with any crime, although she did endure a two-hour questioning. 

“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,” she said in court. “I feel like justice has been served.”

The Orange County Superior Court jury deliberated for under an hour before finding that the Easters acted with malice, oppression, or fraud when they planted the drugs. Jurors awarded $2.1 million in compensatory damages and additionally required Kent to pay $1.5 million in punitive damages. Jill – now going by the name Ava Everheart, according to the Orange County Register – has to pay $2.1 million. 

Kent declared bankruptcy before the trial began and his law license has been suspended, while Jill was disbarred. The couple is now divorced. Of the $5.7 million awarded by the jury, the Easters will have to pay about $4 million themselves. 

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.