Judge's decision means Casey Anthony defamation cases likely to go forward

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TAMPA, Fla. - A federal bankruptcy judge in Tampa said if Casey Anthony loses defamation lawsuits filed against her, she will be responsible for any money she owes.

Anthony's attorneys were in court Tuesday hoping to convince the judge otherwise.

Long before Anthony went to trial on charges she murdered her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez sued Anthony for defamation.

Gonzalez was questioned by investigators after Anthony claimed a woman with the same name was Caylee's nanny and had kidnapped Caylee.

When Anthony was shown a photograph of Gonzalez, she said it was not the same woman.

But later, Anthony told her mother, during a videotaped jail visit, that investigators had never shown her the photo of Gonzalez. Anthony's mother, Cindy Anthony, later told Channel 9 that her daughter had not cleared Gonzalez.

That simple fact has kept Gonzalez's lawsuit alive for five years, according to Channel 9's Kathi Belich.

Months after Casey Anthony was acquitted of first-degree murder in 2011, former Orange County meter reader Roy Kronk sued her for defamation.

Kronk discovered Caylee's remains near the Anthonys' house.

Early on, Casey Anthony accused him in court filings of being the possible killer, and during her trial, he was accused of tampering with Caylee's remains.

Tuesday's decision means a bankruptcy judge will have to decide if, in each case, the alleged defamation was willful or not.

For each case, if it is ruled willful, the case would move forward and could go to a jury trial.

The decisions on the cases are expected sometime next year.

Lawyers for Kronk and Gonzalez are looking forward to calling Anthony to testify, Belich reported.

"She's elated," said Gonzalez's lawyer, Matt Morgan. "I mean, she's very happy. It's been an emotional journey for her."

Morgan said Gonzalez is still being harassed by people who think she killed Caylee. He said he's optimistic the Tampa judge will find Anthony's accusations willful and malicious.

"I don't think that there's a more malicious or harmful statement that you can make," said Morgan.

WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said it helps Gonzalez that there is video of the statements about her.

"Zenaida Gonzalez has a good chance of prevailing in this lawsuit. The elements are there," said Sheaffer.

If the Tampa judge allows the suits to go forward, juries in Orange County will likely decide how much Anthony would have to pay.

She's already paid $25,000 to keep the rights to her own story.