The judge's ruling almost certainly brings an end to Casey's quest to overturn a plea deal that in 2006 sent him to prison for 12 and a half years.
Casey's plea came after he spent almost two years on the lam while facing a DUI manslaughter charge in the death of Mary Montgomery in 2001. The 35-year-old Bostonian claims the secret recordings proved his lawyer, Milton Hirsch, a prominent criminal defense attorney running for county judge in 2010, persuaded him to flee the country to avoid prosecution. Casey made similar accusations against Michael Rappaport, a Miami-based psychologist.
In his ruling, Thornton wrote he had listened to the tape of Casey's conversation with Hirsch. The judge determined Hirsch "had an expectation of privacy and an expectation that his voice would not be recorded." Thornton said he listened to the tape several times. "This court finds that the partial transcripts attached to the pleadings are not fully accurate, are incomplete, and are misleading," Thornton wrote. "This court further finds that the recording contains no direct or indirect evidence of criminal actions by the attorney."
Thornton did not listen to the Rappaport tape. He ordered Casey to stop disseminating transcripts of the recordings, thus ending Casey's last-ditch attempt to sever his punishment.
Over the past couple of weeks, the case has been picked up by other media outlets and local blogs. Today, the Miami Herald's Fred Grimm weighed in with a blistering column chastising the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the San Francisco Bay Guardian, which at the last minute joined Casey in his motion to unseal the transcripts and the tapes.
I agree with Grimm, and not because the Guardian's founder -- Bruce Brugmann -- and my employer are sworn enemies. In his attempt to win a second chance at trial, Casey tried to cast himself as the victim. That's hard to fathom when all he has done since his arrest is run from the consequences of his actions.