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Gigliotti guilty in Hernando child abuse, imprisonment case

BROOKSVILLE

The bailiffs slipped on the handcuffs, gave the woman a final set of instructions and led her out of the courtroom.

Tai-Ling Gigliotti stared blankly ahead, whispering under her breath to her attorney as she headed into a future that almost certainly includes a number of years in prison.

And finally, her teenage accuser flashed a smile.

"He's been through a lot," prosecutor Brian Trehy said Monday afternoon.

A Hernando County jury found Gigliotti guilty of repeatedly beating and imprisoning her 17-year-old nephew in a bathroom for the better part of 15 months.

Gigliotti, 51, was convicted 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.

The jury of six people — five of them mothers — reached its verdict after a little more than three hours of deliberation. The jurors, who agreed to wear similar-colored clothing each day of the weeklong trial, all declined comment on their way out of the courtroom.

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, where her attorney, Jimmy Brown of Brooksville, plans to push for a lenient sentence.

Brown also said he will appeal the verdict.

"We are very disappointed with the verdict," he said. "It's something you never get used to."

Earlier Monday, the attorneys made their final pleas before a courtroom crowd that included the teen, Gigliotti's fiance, Anton Angelo, a handful of witnesses and a number of interested observers.

The teen, in a blue shirt and a bright red tie, sat near the front of the courtroom with one of his foster parents; Angelo picked a bench near the back of the room, often staring at the floor; and Gigliotti wore a shawl around her shoulders, arms folded tightly across her chest as the jury weighed the arguments.

Gigliotti, the widow of world-renowned clarinetist Anthony Gigliotti, and the boy moved from the Philadelphia area to Spring Hill in 2004. Investigators say the abuse quickly followed.

Trehy detailed the teen's final days in the home, when he was allegedly beaten, bruised, starved and hog-tied on the cold tile floor of the bathroom.

"We know for certain on that day that (the teen) became a survivor," Trehy said. "Surviving that caging is something no boy, no teenager, should have to endure."

During his closing argument, Brown tried to paint the teen as a liar and troubled child who sought to break free of a strict upbringing. He presented a slide show that included excerpts from the teen's private journal. He read a number of entries, often pointing directly at the boy.

"He lied to you all, repeatedly," Brown said. He then read from the journal: "I've always lied about whatever crime I admit, unless I find there's no way out."

Also in the journal, which Trehy fought to prevent from being admitted into evidence, were excerpts in which the teen expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

"Was the Holocaust evil?" Brown read from the journal, "Not back then."

Trehy later countered that the teen only learned to idolize people who "used force and violence and destruction to get their way" through Gigliotti's treatment of him.

"Think about it," Trehy asked the jurors. "Where did he learn that?"

Gigliotti also had claimed that during her final, violent confrontation with the boy on Feb. 9, 2009, that he cornered and attacked her in a bedroom, knocking the diminutive woman to the ground and placing his genitals on her chest. She said she fought him off with a wooden stick.

During her turn on the witness stand Saturday evening, Gigliotti said she then told the teen that she was going to hand him over to the authorities and have him sent back to his native Taiwan for military service.

But before she could call the authorities, Gigliotti said the boy left the house and concocted a story that resulted in her arrest.

Brown said Gigliotti was saddened by the verdict but not surprised. He said Gigliotti was more concerned about Angelo and all the pets at their home. And her nephew.

"She's hoping that he will straighten out," Brown said, "and become the man she always wanted him to be."

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/jandersontimes.

Gigliotti guilty in Hernando child abuse, imprisonment case 05/10/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 10, 2010 11:20pm]

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