A duo appeared Thursday in a Santa Ana courtroom, but it wasn't the married couple from Irvine the judge expected to see.
Jill Bjorkholm Easter and Kent Wycliffe Easter, a pair of 38-year-old lawyers accused of conspiring to plant drugs in the car of a school volunteer at their son's elementary campus, did not appear as ordered for their arraignment.
Instead, the Easters sent their lawyers, who cited a sudden "healthcare emergency" as the reason for their absence.
The couple retained separate lawyers: Kent Easter's attorney, Thomas Bienert, said he heard second- and third-hand Thursday morning that his client was dealing with a medical issue that rendered him temporarily "unable to speak."
Orange County Superior Court Judge Walter Schwarm granted a month's delay for the hearing.
The Irvine couple was arrested in June, accused of conspiring to plant drugs in an elementary school volunteer's car and calling police to report the drugs from a Newport Beach hotel near Kent Easter's legal practice.
They are charged with conspiring to get the volunteer arrested and jailed. They are also accused of conspiring to file a fake crime report.
The husband and wife were on $20,000 bail. According to court records, they posted bail June 26.
According to investigators, the Easters thought the volunteer had not supervised their son properly and so retaliated by going to her home early on Feb. 16, 2011, and stashing drugs in her car.
Kent Easter intentionally left the drugs in plain sight, prosecutors contend. As he drove to and from the volunteer's home, the Easters were allegedly in constant phone and text message contact, police said.
Kent Easter called the Irvine Police Department that afternoon and, using a fake name and number, said he saw an erratic driver park at the elementary school, according to police.
He said he watched the volunteer, whom he named, hide a bag of drugs behind her driver's seat, according to the OCDA. He also described the volunteer's car, including its license plate number.
Irvine police responded to Kent Easter's call and found the bag of drugs in the volunteer's vehicle. The volunteer, who was detained by police for about two hours, said the drugs did not belong to her and she did not know how they ended up in her car. She agreed to a search of her home, which did not turn up any evidence of drug use or possession, police said.
Once police discovered the volunteer had been in a classroom during the time Kent Easter claimed to have seen her hide drugs in the car, they began investigating whether the contraband had been planted.
The investigation led to the Easters, including surveillance video of Kent Easter at a Newport Beach hotel near where he worked, from which police allege he placed the Feb. 16 call to police.
If convicted, the Easters face a maximum three years in state prison.
Jill Easter, as the L.A. Times first reported, once authored a crime novel under the pseudonym Ava Bjork. The book, titled Holding House, is about a man who discovers the "perfect crime," according to a website where it's still being sold. On the site, Easter describes herself as an "American author living in Southern California."
According to a law blog, Kent Easter is a UCLA Law graduate who is a partner at Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, a mid-size California firm. Jill Easter was admitted to the Bar in 1998, but her license has since expired, according to the district attorney.