West Virginia residents Bob Hart, Elizabeth Crawford, second from left, Sue Holland, third from left and Patti Lemley, standing, wait to be called for their mediation hearing with Jon Gigliotti, an alleged private investigator from Lyndhurst, Va. in Morgantown. The parties failed to resolve anyting as Gigliotti hired an attorney, and instructed her not to make the group any offers. (Photo by Lawrence Smith)
MORGANTOWN – A group of West Virginia residents say they are more determined than ever to pursue a civil suit against an alleged private investigator from Virginia after he hired a local attorney and instructed her not to make them any offers during a court-ordered mediation hearing.
On Sept. 20, Patti Lemley, Bob Hart, Elizabeth Crawford, Gil Vanderkraats and Sue Holland were scheduled to meet with a mediator in an attempt to settle a civil suit they filed against Jon Gigliotti in Monongalia Magistrate Court. Earlier this year, the group filed individual suits against Gigliotti, of Lyndhurst, Va., a suburb of Staunton, alleging he failed to make good on his promise in 1997 to investigate their respective allegations of corruption within the West Virginia judicial system.
Upon discovering the 10-year statute of limitations had yet to expire on small claims with a contract, the group filed their suits in Monongalia County since that’s where they say he was provided the first installment of a $ 2,650 retainer.
When it came time for the hearing, the sides were led into a conference room, and met with Brian McCallister, a second year law school student at West Virginia University who would serve as the mediator. Representing Gigliotti was RaeLynn Regula, an attorney with the Morgantown law firm of Brewer and Giggenbach, who served the group members with a notice of appearance just prior to the hearing.
The hearing, which lasted about 45 minutes, was closed to the public. However, when it was finished, it was evident that nothing was accomplished.
“That was a joke,” Lemley said upon exiting the hearing.
According to Lemley and the other group members, McCallister allowed them to speak first. He asked they each recount the version of events, and detail how much money they believe Gigliotti owes them.
After they finished, McCallister gave Regula the opportunity to speak on Gigliotti’s behalf. However, according to Hart she didn’t have much to say.
“She said she couldn’t mediate because she was instructed not to do anything,” Hart said. “I told her I thought that was unethical.”
The only thing Gigliotti instructed Regula to do, Lemley said, was file a motion to dismiss the case. All this caught McCallister off-guard, Lemley said.
The inability to accomplish anything through the mediation hearing angered Holland, who drove five hours from Kenova to attend.
“Mediation is supposed to pull the attorneys away,” Holland said. “Why was she [Regula] here?”
Also, Lemley questioned how Gigliotti could afford the services of an attorney since he filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.
When later reached for a comment, Regula declined to say anything on Gigliotti’s behalf other than “the claims of the plaintiffs are without merit.”
“They have been defeated in U.S. district and state court,” she added, referring to suits Hart and Lemley, respectively, previously filed against Gigliotti, the Christian Broadcasting Network and the American Center for Law and Justice, a Virginia Beach, Va.-based public interest law firm.
The group alleges that when he met with them 10 years ago, Gigliotti said he could get ACLJ to take their cases, and “The 700 Club,” CBN’s flagship program, to air a segment about it.
It was shortly after their meeting that the group members learned Gigliotti had no authority to speak on CBN’s or ACLJ’s behalf, and his license to conduct private investigations expired a month before they met.
As of presstime, no motion to dismiss was filed. Instead, a letter was sent to everyone that a hearing would take place Tuesday, Oct. 16 to rule on the merits of the case.
Monongalia Magistrate Court, Case No. 07-C-292