BROOKSVILLE — Attorneys for a Spring Hill woman convicted of beating and imprisoning her 17-year-old nephew in a bathroom have asked for a new trial, alleging, among other things, that jurors may have been influenced outside the courtroom and that the charge of "caging" was inappropriately applied in this case.
Tai-Ling Gigliotti, 51, was convicted May 10 of two charges of aggravated child abuse. The teen accused Gigliotti of beating him and locking him in a bathroom for months before he escaped in early February 2009.
On the seventh day of the trial, the jury of six people — five of them mothers — reached a verdict after a little more than three hours of deliberation.
A request for a new trial is generally standard, a move that protects the constitutional rights of a defendant. But in a 10-page motion filed Friday with the 5th Judicial Circuit, Gigliotti's attorneys raised a number of issues — more than 30 — in asking for a new trial.
Revisiting an argument made during the trial, attorney Jimmy Brown argued that the state's definition of "caging" was much more narrow than what applied in this particular case.
According to the law, the noun "cage" is defined as a "box or enclosure having some openwork (as of wires or bars)," and the verb means "confine, shut in, keep in or as if in a cage" and "enclose in or with a strong structure to prevent escape."
Brown noted that the boy was never confined to the bathroom for more than 24 hours at a time and that caging "cannot be interpreted reasonably to include a 7- x 15-foot interior air-conditioned and heated bathroom."
Prosecutor Brian Trehy said that issue had already been settled in court and pointed out that prison cells also have a toilet and are generally air-conditioned.
"But I'm pretty sure people in them would argue that they are being caged," Trehy said.
Brown also contended that jurors may have "considered matters extraneous to the case and not presented in evidence," pointing to a newspaper interview with one of the jurors. The juror, Judy Rice, said the panel considered Gigliotti's fiance, Anton Angelo, to be an unreliable witness.
In the interview, Rice made reference to a point in Angelo's testimony when Circuit Judge Jack Springstead cleared the jury from the courtroom and expressed concern that he wasn't forthcoming. Brown said the jurors could not have known about that unless they heard about it outside the courtroom.
The jurors "had already formulated some determination as to the credibility of a material witness and a bias in favor of the state long before they were lawfully allowed to discuss such matters," Brown wrote in the motion.
Trehy dismissed those concerns, saying Brown had reached an unlikely conclusion.
"All the appropriate cautions were taken," he said.
A month before Gigliotti's trial, Angelo received five years of probation after reaching a plea deal with the state. But Trehy said the state will soon review transcripts of Angelo's testimony and compare it with a deposition taken before the trial as part of the plea agreement.
If prosecutors find that Angelo didn't adhere to the deal, he could be found in violation of his probation and face time in prison.
Angelo's attorney, Rob Whittel, said he was certain that his client upheld his end of the bargain.
"He didn't deviate at all from any of his statements" in the agreement, Whittel said. "But it was a complicated case, and as more and more issues developed, he added to it."
Gigliotti gambled with a jury, twice turning down plea deals from the state, including one offered moments before the trial began last week that would have ensured she spent no more than six years in prison.
She now faces a minimum of eight years and a maximum of 60 years in prison. She will return to court June 9 for sentencing.
Joel Anderson can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 754-6120.