Chapter 6 | Read it from the beginning

The courtroom where Kent Easter pleaded for mercy from an Orange County jury weighing his financial fate. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

A tall, lanky man sat alone on a bench outside Courtroom 62. He was absorbed in the yellow legal pad balanced on his lap, silently mouthing what he had written there.

He was recognizable to many of the attorneys who passed through this third-floor wing of the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana. By now he was accustomed to the stares of curiosity and contempt. The white-shoe rainmakers in the $1,000 suits, the personal-injury guys hustling a living on slip-and-falls, the overworked public defenders — they knew his mug shot from the news.

Until recently Kent Easter had been one of them, a member of the tribe in good standing, a sworn Officer of the Court. He sat atop the roiling, competitive heap of Orange County’s 17,000 practicing lawyers — a $400,000-a-year civil litigator, an equity partner in one of the county’s biggest firms.

His career had been a trajectory of prestige schools and status gigs, from Stanford to UCLA Law to a big Silicon Valley firm, and finally to a 14th-floor office in a Newport Beach tower overlooking the Pacific.

This was before the arrests and the trials and the cameras, before his pedigree became a cudgel with which to flog him, before strangers were writing him letters urging him to kill himself. Now he sat alone in the din of the courthouse hallway wearing ill-fitting pants and a homely purple sweater.

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