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Ex-fiance in Hernando County child abuse case says he feared teen

SPRING HILL — When the teen escaped from the barricaded bathroom in February 2009, he told authorities that he had been locked in there regularly at night and when he was alone.

He said he had been beaten for more than three years and that the attacks had been getting more frequent and more violent in recent weeks.

But the former fiance of his purported jailer said they were the ones living in fear.

In a court deposition last week, Anton Angelo accused the teen of trashing his car, burning down a cabana behind the home and putting glass and nails in the dog food.

"I was physically afraid for my life," Angelo said.

Angelo's testimony was released Friday, only days before his ex-fiancee, Tai-Ling Gigliotti, is set to face trial on charges she imprisoned the 17-year-old boy in her Spring Hill home and repeatedly beat him in a case that authorities have called "incarceration with torture."

Her trial is scheduled to start Monday with jury selection. Gigliotti, 51, faces two counts of aggravated child abuse. If convicted, she could get 60 years in prison.

On Thursday, Gigliotti came close to accepting a plea offer before changing her mind. Gigliotti then made it clear to her attorney, Jimmy Brown, that she wanted a jury trial.

"This might not be the most practical way to deal with it," Brown said. "But her belief in her innocence has been constant. … And she has an abiding belief that our system of justice does work."

Also in court that day was Angelo, who was sentenced to five years of probation in exchange for his testimony against Gigliotti.

But Angelo's testimony on April 23 could go a long way toward bolstering the defense's argument that the teen's story is greatly exaggerated and Gigliotti and Angelo both fretted over what to do as his behavior became more threatening.

"Our position all along has been that this kid was a problem," said Robert Whittel, Angelo's attorney. "The question simply in this case boils down: How do you control an uncontrollable child?"

In the nearly 100 pages of testimony, Angelo describes the boy as mischievous from a very young age, shoplifting from grocery stores, forging Gigliotti's signature on notes to teachers and stealing money out of his wallet.

As the boy grew into a teen, Angelo said the mischief became more troubling.

His behavior "was probably getting worse, because he … was growing up," Angelo said. "And apparently … none of the punishment that was given out to him was doing any good."

Angelo said Gigliotti was protective of the boy and often failed to follow through on punishments like grounding him or preventing him from watching TV. In fact, Angelo said, Gigliotti often took the boy fishing, swimming or biking without Angelo, at the boy's request.

"I think he had some jealousy problems," Angelo said. "Because I know that on several occasions, he told Tai-Ling that he's afraid that me and her are getting too close."

When the boy's poor behavior continued to escalate, Angelo said Gigliotti started locking him in the bathroom as a form of punishment. It's unclear from Angelo's testimony when this started but often, he said, the boy would lock himself in the bathroom.

"He would probably mostly just go there by himself, because he knows what to do," Angelo said.

The family's troubles finally spilled outside the home in early February 2009, when the boy escaped from the bathroom and ran to neighbors for help. He later told authorities he had spent the good part of 15 months imprisoned there.

Investigators said they found bruises on the then-16-year-old from repeated beatings that left open wounds on his buttocks, among other things. They found weapons, including a metal-tipped hose, that allegedly were used to inflict the wounds.

An initial report that the boy's right forearm was broken was later found to be incorrect.

In the deposition, Angelo said Gigliotti told him the boy attacked her because she threatened to have him deported back to Taiwan.

"I know that he certainly didn't want to go back to Taiwan," he said. And Gigliotti "said that they had a fight."

Gigliotti is the widow of Anthony Gigliotti, one of the most accomplished classical clarinet players of the 20th century, who died at 79 in 2001 in a Camden, N.J., hospital.

A native of China, she came to the United States to study music, which is how she met Anthony Gigliotti.

Tai-Ling Gigliotti brought the boy to the United States from Taiwan in February 1998, according to immigration records. His temporary visa expired Feb. 19, 2003, but state Department of Children and Families officials have said he is not in danger of being deported.

Investigators have found no adoption records. The boy said Gigliotti is his aunt, though he called her Mom.

A judge terminated Gigliotti's parental rights June 18 at the request of DCF. The boy remains in the care of a foster family in Hernando County.

Whittel, Angelo's attorney, said Gigliotti may have a better chance in a jury trial than previously thought.

"The case is not exactly nearly as strong as they initially thought," Whittel said. "Lots of people are going to be sympathetic to Tai-Ling. The mother wanted to stop the bad behavior and control him. But maybe she did go too far."

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120. You can follow Joel on Twitter at www.twitter.com/janderson times.

Ex-fiance in Hernando County child abuse case says he feared teen 04/30/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 30, 2010 8:22pm]
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