Casey Anthony looked ready for freedom.
For the first time since her trial began, the US mother aquitted of killing her daughter let her hair down, smiling and playing with it as she awaited the judge’s decision on when she would be released.
Then she turned stone-faced as the sentence was pronounced: Freedom won’t come just yet.
She’ll have to spend six more days in jail for lying to investigators about the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.
Thursday’s sentence means Anthony will go free only slightly more than a week after she was acquitted in the slaying.
The extra time in jail did little to satisfy throngs of angry people convinced of her guilt who gathered outside the courthouse.
But it could provide time for the public furor over her acquittal to ease somewhat and give Anthony’s attorneys a chance to plan for her safety.
Two days after the verdicts, most of the jury remained silent, with their names still kept secret by the court. One juror explained that the panel agreed to acquit Anthony because prosecutors did not show what happened to the toddler.
When she is released, the 25-year-old Anthony must decide whether to return to a community in which many onlookers long ago concluded that she’s a killer, or to a home strained by her defense attorneys’ accusations of sexual abuse.
Judge Belvin Perry gave her the maximum sentence of four years for four convictions of lying to authorities. He denied a defense request to combine the misdemeanor counts, which could have made her eligible for immediate release.
“As a result of those four specific, distinct lies, law enforcement expended great time and resources looking for Caylee Marie Anthony,” the judge said.
With time served and credit for good behavior, she is due out on Wednesday, her 1,003rd day in jail.
Outside the courthouse, a cluster of protesters chanted “Justice for Caylee” as they waved signs that said “Arrest the Jury!!” and “Jurors 1-12 Guilty of Murder.” One man had duct tape with a heart-shaped sticker over his mouth, similar to the way prosecutors contend Caylee died. Increased police presence included officers on horseback.
“At least she won’t get to pop the champagne cork tonight,” said Flora Reece, an Orlando real estate broker who stood outside the courthouse holding a sign that read “Arrest the Jury.”
Anthony’s parents were present for the hearing but left without speaking to reporters. Prosecutors and defense attorneys did not comment either.
Anger continued to spread online, with commenters vilifying Anthony on social media networks. Nearly 22,000 people “liked” the “I hate Casey Anthony” page on Facebook, which included comments wishing her the same fate that befell Caylee.
The potential for Anthony to profit off the case was infuriating to many who said they feared she could become rich by selling her story to publishers or filmmakers or signing a lucrative television contract.
Whatever future she chooses, Anthony’s release next week promises to mark the start of a new, potentially difficult chapter for her.
Mary Tate, a former public defender who heads the University of Richmond’s Institute for Actual Innocence, said Anthony’s defense team is probably seeking help from a variety of advisers as they seek to rebuild her fractured life.
“She’s going to be bombarded with a lot of financial offers. She’s going to be bombarded with random hostility. She’s just entering an extraordinarily exhausting two or three years,” Tate said.