BROOKSVILLE — A judge on Wednesday postponed the sentencing of Tai-Ling Gigliotti over concerns that officials with the foster care system might have perjured themselves at some point during the case.
Circuit Judge Jack Springstead delayed the sentencing of Gigliotti, who was convicted in May of beating and locking up her nephew, until July 7.
Springstead did not reveal details about how officials might have committed perjury, which had state officials scratching their heads Wednesday about what he was talking about.
The judge also was concerned that the teen victim might have been involved in a felony while he was in the foster care system and behaved poorly in school and with his foster parents. The judge refused to give details of the alleged crime.
"The court has not had adequate time to review all of these issues," Springstead said. "And these are serious matters."
Gigliotti, who was convicted of two charges of aggravated child abuse, faces a minimum of eight years and a maximum of 60 years in prison.
Wednesday's hearing was set for 1 p.m., but it didn't start until nearly 40 minutes later, as Springstead, prosecutor Brian Trehy and Gigliotti's attorney, Jimmy Brown, reviewed a pre-sentence hearing investigation file from the state that arrived just minutes before the hearing.
Springstead said he was frustrated that the state Department of Children and Families and foster care officials initially resisted releasing the file and then took so long to send it to the Department of Corrections, which then forwarded the file to the court.
The file made it to Springstead's office Tuesday, but it was incomplete, the judge said. The amended file didn't arrive until just before the hearing.
"This court will not tolerate that type of interference with judicial proceedings," Springstead said. "And it became readily apparent that I was not going to be able to absorb all of that information and put it to beneficial use."
As part of his decision to delay the hearing, Springstead noted concerns about possible behavioral problems the teen had in foster care and school, as well as the boy's honesty in interviews with officials leading up to the hearing.
"A number of issues have arisen," the judge said. "And the court has reason to believe the alleged victim may have been in perpetuation of a serious felony offense. … I have great concerns about what has transpired up to this point in court."
As of Wednesday evening, DCF spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner said the agency was trying to contact Springstead to understand his concerns. She said DCF officials weren't aware of any problems before reading about the judge's remarks in media reports earlier that day.
"Perjury is something that is not tolerated within the social services system," Hoeppner said. "We want to be in full compliance."
Gigliotti, 51, the widow of world-renowned clarinetist Anthony Gigliotti, and the boy moved from the Philadelphia area to Spring Hill in 2004. Investigators say the abuse quickly followed.
The teen, who is not being identified because of the nature of the crimes, said Gigliotti beat him and locked him in a bathroom for months before he escaped in February 2009.
Defense attorneys have maintained the teen's story is exaggerated and riddled with discrepancies that undermine the case.
At the hearing Wednesday, about 30 of Gigliotti's friends, colleagues and former music students filled the benches on the left side of the courtroom. Her octogenarian mother from Taiwan was also among the crowd.
Through a translator, Gigliotti's mother, Itzu-Tzu Lee, said she was worried about the prospect of her daughter going to prison for a crime she didn't commit. "Tai-Ling has been hurt a lot" by the boy, Lee said. "I would like for (the teen) to change and to apologize for all the hurt he's caused her."
Wearing an orange jumpsuit, Gigliotti was brought into the courtroom with her ankles and wrists shackled. She nodded to her supporters and teared up a bit at the sight of her mother.
Meanwhile, Gigliotti's nephew sat on the other side of the courtroom with his foster parents and other victim advocates, who were a constant courtroom presence during the trial.
He declined to comment.
The judge's decision means Gigliotti will have to wait at least another month to learn her fate. Her attorney also has filed a motion requesting a new trial, generally a standard move that protects the constitutional rights of the defendant.
Springstead pointed out that Brown also could tweak his motion now, taking note of the concerns that came up during the sentencing hearing. Brown later said he would submit another motion for a new trial with some of the changes.
"Tai-Ling maintains faith in our judicial system," he said. "She's maintained her innocence from the start. … And she has not changed her position.
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120.