BROOKSVILLE — A key figure in a high-profile child abuse and kidnapping case walked out of a Hernando County courtroom a free man Tuesday after a judge said he had not lied to prosecutors.
Wearing glasses and dressed in a dark gray suit, Anton Angelo smiled and embraced friends in the courtroom after the ruling. While prosecutors may appeal, the decision seemingly ends a more than two-year ordeal for the Russian-born 47-year-old.
"I'm very gratified," defense attorney Jimmy Brown said after the hearing. "The judge did exactly the right thing."
Angelo had been out of jail wearing an ankle monitoring device since last month when Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. set his bail at $20,000 despite objections from prosecutors that the Spring Hill music store owner posed a flight risk.
Prosecutor Brian Trehy said he was disappointed with the decision and will consider an appeal over the next week. If the state does not pursue an appeal, he said, a violation of probation charge will also be dropped.
"It's an uphill battle," he said, "to appeal a decision like that."
Authorities had arrested Angelo Oct. 25 and charged him with perjury and violation of probation in connection with testimony he gave during the trial of Tai-Ling Gigliotti. The two were engaged at the time, though the status of their relationship now is unclear.
Angelo testified last May that he took photos that were later used as evidence in the trial of Gigliotti, who was accused of beating her adopted teenage nephew and periodically locking him in a bathroom at the couple's Spring Hill home.
The defense argued that Gigliotti, who was later convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison, acted in self-defense to protect herself from a rebellious boy, and the photos of bruises were submitted to document the injuries she said he inflicted on her.
Before her trial, Angelo reached a plea deal and received five years' probation. As part of that deal, he agreed to testify against Gigliotti.
Angelo, prosecutors said, lied when he said in court that he snapped all of the photos two days after the boy escaped in February 2009 and ran to a neighbor's house, which led to Gigliotti's arrest. The bruises in the photos appear to be in various stages of healing and, Trehy said, a medical expert would have testified to that.
But Merritt ruled that because neither Trehy nor defense attorneys specifically asked Angelo if he took all of the photos on one day, the perjury charge was invalid.
During the trial, Trehy and Brown asked Angelo when he took the photos. Angelo said they were shot about two days after the boy ran off.
Trehy argued Tuesday that because authorities could prove the photos were in fact taken over a span of weeks rather than in one day, Angelo had perjured himself.
Among several arguments Brown made against the perjury charge, he noted that during Angelo's court testimony he merely estimated the day on which he took the photos. When asked during trial if he was certain on which day he took them, Angelo said he made an "approximation."
"Mr. Angelo," Brown told Merritt, "never said these photographs were taken on a specific day."
Throughout Tuesday's hearing, Trehy and Brown also differed on how critical Angelo's testimony about the photographs was to the case's primary issues.
"Were they taken two days after the event? The answer is no," Trehy said. "The timing of when those photographs were taken is enormously material."
"There is a big difference between relevance," Brown said, "and materiality."
Citing historical cases that dealt with similar issues, Merritt sided with Brown and said the questions asked of Angelo about the photos during trial needed to be more precise for him to have committed perjury.
To get a perjury conviction, Trehy would have had to show that the photos were material to the case and that Angelo intentionally misrepresented the facts. The photos were material, Trehy said, because they were used to corroborate Gigliotti's testimony that she suffered injury at the hands of the boy she adopted.
Now serving her first year in prison, Gigliotti is the widow of Anthony Gigliotti, one of the most accomplished classical clarinet players of the 20th century. A native of China, she came to the United States to study music and met Anthony Gigliotti. He died at 79 in 2001 in a Camden, N.J., hospital.
Tai-Ling Gigliotti brought the boy to the United States from Taiwan in February 1998 when he was 6 years old, according to immigration records. As of January, he was living with other relatives.
Three years after her husband died, she moved from the Philadelphia area to Spring Hill, where Angelo later joined her.
Times staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.