ORLANDO, Fla. -- Now you know she did it! I said with a laugh to defense attorney Jose Baez.
"No, she didn't," Baez replied flatly, turning his back to me and his full attention to his cellphone.
My chance encounter on Saturday at Orlando International Airport with the lead attorney for the extremely fortunate Casey Anthony had been going well, but it ended abruptly when I conveyed that observation, which is compatible with what most Americans think, according to a USA Today poll.
Public fury over Anthony's not-guilty jury verdict on charges she murdered her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, was the dominant news story in Orlando when I was there last week for a family vacation, surpassing even the final space shuttle mission.
Minutes before seeing Baez, I had overheard a heated conversation between two kiosk staffers debating how Baez could justify a career that results in verdicts like Anthony's.
Then, dressed to slip under the radar, a man in dark glasses and a brown V-neck came into view, heading in my direction as I was walking to the Delta gate for my return flight to Minnesota.
Nobody seemed to notice him, but I studied his face quickly, turned around, jogged up alongside him and asked: Aren't you Jose Baez?
"I get that a lot," he said, not breaking stride.
Wait a minute, I've got to get some video of you, I told him.
"Do you want me to take your picture?" asked a beautiful woman who was with him. (Taking pictures with celebrities is not my thing, as underscored by the fact that I didn't even ask for one with my favorite singer, the fabulous Patti Austin, when we met backstage at the Dakota.)
Baez was playing nicely with me, making my video more interesting by doing something -- in this case dialing a number on his cellphone -- instead of just looking at my camera (see startribune.com/video).
I wondered: Should I ask Baez why Anthony had refused a post-verdict visit with her mother, Cindy Anthony? Or why Casey dropped the mousey schoolmarm look and let down her hair for her first post-acquittal court appearance?
Had any gossip TV show offered to pay for Casey's makeover in exchange for exclusive time with her? And Casey was just joking, right, in a jailhouse letter about having a baby right away if acquitted?
In the end, I went with my question/commentary regarding Casey Anthony, who was as guilty as O.J., in my opinion, and away Baez walked.
So, is Jose Baez cheap or frugal?
We may never know, as he didn't return my call on Monday to the Baez Law Firm to find out about the headset he reportedly purchased at Blu Wire, an airport kiosk.
A Blu Wire staffer who identified himself as James, an assistant manager, said Baez had bought a set of $14.99 Coby Jammerz. "The cheapest ones. I'm just saying," said James. "His wife or girlfriend, whatever, was trying to get him to buy the Sonys, but he went with the cheapies."
Baez is not rolling in dough, and it may stay that way, unlike some of James' better customers, who include Shaq.
Deadline.com reported that a Hollywood talent agency, one that would have represented Baez for broadcasting, books, TV and movie deals, signed and dropped Baez within a six-hour period. News reports about Baez's $670,000 home being in foreclosure also intensified after the trial.
Baez's client, the partying pariah, also had better hope she's worth a big "licensing fee" to the network that ultimately gets to do her big interview. She should then sock that cash away and live frugally, because the public won't have much stomach for hearing any new lies that might be served up in a book by a "mother" who doesn't report her small child missing for days.
More airport celebs
Word has it that I missed seeing CBS' Scott Pelley at the Orlando airport.
Katie Couric's replacement behind "The CBS Evening News" anchor desk was calling no attention to himself by reading the New York Times at the airport. Given a choice between video of Jose Baez or Scott Pelley -- who'll probably serve in that CBS anchor chair longer than Couric without moving the network out of its No. 3 spot -- I'd rather have the former.
C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or firstname.lastname@example.org. E-mailers, please state a subject -- "Hello" doesn't count. Attachments are not opened, so don't even try. More of her attitude can be seen on FOX 9 Thursday mornings.