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State attorney's appeal adds twist to Tai-Ling Gigliotti child abuse case

BROOKSVILLE — Anton Angelo walked out of a Brooksville courtroom last month, dressed in a dark suit and wearing a smile.

A free man.

But now the key figure in one of Hernando County's highest-profile child abuse cases in recent memory may be bound for another courtroom, this time in the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach.

The State Attorney's Office is appealing a judge's Feb. 22 decision to dismiss perjury charges against Angelo, 47. Prosecutors had argued that Angelo lied on the stand in May during the trial of his fiancee, Tai-Ling Gigliotti, who was ultimately convicted of child abuse and sentenced to 12 years in prison after a jury found she had beaten her adopted teenage nephew and periodically locked him in a bathroom at the couple's Spring Hill home.

Angelo, who had reached a plea deal and agreed to testify against Gigliotti, said he took photos that were used as evidence in the trial. The defense argued that Gigliotti acted in self-defense to protect herself from an unruly boy, and the photos of bruises were submitted to document the injuries she said he inflicted on her.

Prosecutors said Angelo lied in court when he said he had snapped all of the photos two days after the boy ran away in February 2009. The bruises in the photos appear to be in various stages of healing, and a medical expert would have testified to that, prosecutor Brian Trehy has said.

Jimmy Brown, Angelo's attorney, noted at last month's hearing that Angelo merely estimated the day on which he took the photos. When asked during the trial whether he was certain about which day he had taken them, Angelo said he made an "approximation."

Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Jr. agreed, ruling that because neither Trehy nor defense attorneys specifically asked Angelo whether he had taken all of the photos on one day, the perjury charge was invalid. After Merritt's ruling, Trehy said he would consider an appeal but acknowledged, "It's an uphill battle to appeal a decision like that."

On Wednesday, Trehy said, "While we respect the judge's decision, we believe the evidence does support the (perjury) charge, so we're going to ask the 5th DCA to review it."

To get a perjury conviction, Trehy would have to show that Angelo intentionally misrepresented the facts and that the photos were material to the case. The photos were material, Trehy said, because they were used to corroborate Gigliotti's testimony that she suffered injuries at the hands of the boy she adopted.

"Essentially, what they're saying is Judge Merritt interpreted the law wrongly," Brown said Wednesday. "I don't see it as a close ruling."

Brown said he and Angelo question the state attorney's decision to spend more resources on the case when the state court system is already facing a tight budget.

"It seems like throwing good money after bad," Brown said.

In response to that comment, Trehy said, "The taxpayers should not be happy with the notion that someone can come into the courtroom and misrepresent the truth."

The appeal also revives a violation of probation charge against Angelo. As part of his plea deal, he received five years of probation.

Angelo was arrested on the perjury and probation violation charges last October and remained in jail until January, when Merritt set his bail despite objections from Trehy that the Russian-born Spring Hill music store owner posed a flight risk.

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. He died in 2001.

Tai-Ling Gigliotti, a native of China, brought the boy to the United States from Taiwan in February 1998 when he was 6, 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.

Angelo and Gigliotti are still engaged, Brown said Wednesday.

Asked whether that means Angelo remains devoted to her despite her jail sentence, Brown replied, "I think that's an accurate statement."

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

State attorney's appeal adds twist to Tai-Ling Gigliotti child abuse case 03/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 8:21pm]
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