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Gigliotti's retrial plea hits a wall

Carrying a stack of papers in her cuffed hands, Tai-Ling Gigliotti talks with her attorney, Jimmy Brown, right, before a hearing in Judge Jack Springstead’s courtroom in Brooksville Tuesday afternoon. Gigliotti will back in the courtroom today for sentencing.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Carrying a stack of papers in her cuffed hands, Tai-Ling Gigliotti talks with her attorney, Jimmy Brown, right, before a hearing in Judge Jack Springstead’s courtroom in Brooksville Tuesday afternoon. Gigliotti will back in the courtroom today for sentencing.

BROOKSVILLE — From the very start, attorneys for a Spring Hill woman convicted of beating and imprisoning her 17-year-old nephew in a bathroom have argued the teen's troublesome behavior and penchant for lying were central to their defense.

And with Tai-Ling Gigliotti facing as many as 60 years in prison during a sentencing hearing scheduled for this afternoon, her attorneys passionately laid out their case Tuesday for a mistrial based on post-trial revelations about the boy's difficulties in the foster-care system and at school.

Circuit Judge Jack Springstead was unmoved.

"The character, the behavior of the child is not a defense to these type of allegations," Springstead said near the end of the hour-long hearing. "I do not believe any of that information is relevant."

Gigliotti, the 51-year-old widow of world-renowned clarinetist Anthony Gigliotti, was convicted May 10 of two charges of aggravated child abuse. Prosecutors said she beat her nephew and periodically locked him in a bathroom at their Spring Hill home for nearly 15 months before he escaped in February 2009.

Gigliotti, who rejected a plea deal before the trial began, now faces a minimum of eight years and a maximum of 60 years in prison.

Her attorneys have filed four motions in the past few days asking for a new trial, contending that state foster care officials and the boy's foster parents failed to disclose before the trial a pattern of troublesome and even illegal behavior by the teen.

Among the most serious allegations is that the boy's first foster parent may have committed perjury by not revealing the teen had been accused of engaging in sex acts with a 14-year-old boy.

Gigliotti's attorneys also accused the state Department of Children and Families and other state officials of delaying the release of information about the teen that would have been included in the pre-sentence hearing investigation file, echoing concerns that caused Springstead to postpone Gigliotti's first sentencing hearing a month ago.

"We want all records to be produced," said Jimmy Brown, Gigliotti's attorney. "They should go back, do it over and do it right. We don't have a PSI. We have a non-PSI."

But Springstead said he was satisfied that he had all the information necessary for the sentencing hearing.

"The information is now before the court," Springstead said. "I can fairly and properly assess it. That's what I wanted to know and that's what I now have."

An attorney who represented DCF in the courtroom Tuesday acknowledged the agency took too long to produce the documents initially but said they had complied with Springstead's demands since learning of his concerns last month.

"Should we have complied faster? Yes," said Mark Burnette, a managing attorney for Children's Legal Services. "But we have responded extremely fast. To make allegations that anything was intentional is just wrong."

Prosecutor Brian Trehy argued that Gigliotti's attorneys had the documents before the trial, pointing to a deposition with the first foster parent where they made reference to the allegations of sex acts between the teen and a 14-year-old child.

Regardless, Trehy said, those allegations had nothing to do with the charges against Gigliotti.

"We're satisfied with the court's ruling," Trehy said. "We think the judge fairly considered the issues."

But Brown reiterated that he still didn't have all of the information about the teen's troubles and that he planned to file more motions before the sentencing hearing. He also renewed his call for a mistrial, saying that the evidence showed that the teen wasn't a reliable witness.

"Far too much of the state's case rested on his testimony," Brown said. "There's no testimony that supports (the teen's) version of how he got out of the bathroom.

Springstead is expected to rule on the motions at the start of the hearing, which is set to begin at 1 p.m. today.

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

Gigliotti's retrial plea hits a wall 07/06/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 10:22pm]
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