BROOKSVILLE — The 16-year-old boy told authorities a harrowing story about how his adoptive mother abused him for three years.
It escalated last month, authorities say, when she beat him with a 3-foot piece of wood and a metal-tipped water hose and then locked him in a bathroom, naked and bloodied.
But the mother's attorney on Tuesday called the allegations a lie and labeled the boy a "pathological liar or a sociopath."
The assertion by John H. Feiner, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, was the first made on behalf of Tai-Ling Gigliotti, who entered a not guilty plea in a Hernando County courtroom.
The 50-year-old widow of world-renowned classical clarinetist Anthony Gigliotti is charged with five counts of aggravated child abuse and one count of felony child abuse.
On Feb. 8, authorities allege, Gigliotti ordered her son to strip naked and bound his hands with packing tape before beating him repeatedly. She then locked him in the bathroom and cut the power before leaving their home in a quiet Spring Hill neighborhood.
The boy, who officials say escaped the next day, told investigators the beating was the latest incident in a three-year pattern of mistreatment. Authorities say the boy had bruises on nearly every part of his body, a broken right forearm and lacerations on his buttocks so severe he couldn't sit.
Feiner said the claims against his client are exaggerated.
"It wouldn't suit the case to try this case in the press, of course," he said outside the courtroom. "I submit the press has done a pretty good job" already of convicting Gigliotti.
But, Feiner continued, "The press has not considered that the victim may be a pathological liar or a sociopath. We expect to prove in the course of this case that the account is untrue and that my clients are innocent."
Feiner is also representing Anton Angelo, Gigliotti's live-in boyfriend, who faces charges similar to those against Gigliotti. Angelo will appear before a Hernando County judge next Tuesday.
Pressed for details about inaccuracies in the boy's story, Feiner refused to elaborate. "It will come out at trial," he said.
The boy, who is not being identified, remains in foster care and recently returned to school in Hernando County, state officials say. In the month since he escaped, he has received medical attention and psychological counseling.
A relative of the boy also has visited him, and the contact is ongoing, said Carrie Hoeppner, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Families.
"I'm told that he is doing remarkably well considering all that he has been through," Hoeppner said.
The boy is the lead clarinet player in his school band. He learned from his famous stepfather, who served for 47 years as the principal clarinetist for the Philadelphia Orchestra, and his mother, who was a student of Anthony Gigliotti in the 1980s.
The boy's account of abuse sparked outrage in the community, and a number of people offered to help. One woman gave Kids Central, the local foster care agency, a $50 check and promised to send one every month to pay for the boy's clarinet lessons.
Gigliotti will not appear in court again until July 10. Circuit Judge Jack Springstead granted the lengthy delay to accommodate Feiner, who works in Irvine, Calif. Feiner is being assisted by Crystal River lawyer Bruce Carney.
Feiner's legal career includes four years as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, where he specialized in child abuse, sexual abuse and drug cases. A member of the California and Colorado bar associations, he is the managing partner of his firm, Criminal Defense Advocates, which touts its ability to get charges dropped or resolved with plea agreements that do not include jail time.
His highest-profile case came representing Timothy Alan Lobretto, a member of Hells Angels, on charges stemming from a fight. But California court documents indicate that on the eve of the trial Feiner shot himself.
The documents suggest Feiner had some "mental difficulties,'' but he said Tuesday the court record is incorrect. Without elaborating, he said he dropped his gun, causing it to fire.
Times staff researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. John Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6114.