MORGANTOWN – Despite inaction by judicial officials, five West Virginia residents remain undaunted in moving their civil suit forward against an alleged Virginia private investigator.
Elizabeth Crawford, Robert Hart, Sue Holland, Patti Lemley and Gil Vanderkraats have made several motions to both Monongalia Magistrate Jennifer Wilson and the Monongalia Circuit Court requesting Wilson reconsider her Nov. 15 decision dismissing their breach of contract suit against Jon L. Gigliotti of Lyndhurst, Va. Records show the most recent motion was filed on Aug. 25.
In the motion, Hart reminded Wilson that on Dec. 4, 2007, he "did file a timely motion for a new trial, that you, to date have not taken any action." Because of that, Hart requested from Wilson "a hearing date on the motion or an order entered by you denying the motion."
The motion comes six months after Judge Russell M. Clawges failed to rule on Hart's writ of mandamus for Wilson to rule on the Dec. 4 motion for reconsideration. In his writ dated Feb. 13, Hart accused the Monongalia Circuit Clerk's office of playing fast and loose with the requirements on filing an appeal to circuit court.
Specifically, Hart said when Lemley went to file the appeal on Dec. 3, a deputy clerk told her that not only would the actual signatures of all the plaintiffs be required, but also each plaintiff would have to pay a $146 filing fee instead of all five paying just one fee.
"If true, this would punish all persons that lack funds for the right to appeal," Hart said.
Because all five were scattered across the state and obtaining all their signatures by the Dec. 5 deadline would be difficult, Hart made the decision to make the motion for reconsideration.
Another reason for filing the writ, Hart said, was actually at the request of Wilson's clerk.
Though in possession of a copy showing an official time-stamp of Dec. 4, 2007 at 3:59 p.m., Hart said Wilson's clerk repeatedly told him Wilson had yet to receive the motion to reconsider. However, on Feb. 12, Hart said Wilson's clerk called him to say the motion had been discovered.
Because the motion was "filed out of time and without any filing fees," Hart said Wilson's clerk told him that he would need to seek the permission of the circuit court to rule on whether an appeal would be granted.
Filed on March 16, 2007, the suit alleges, despite being paid a "retainer" of $2,650, Gigliotti failed to conduct an investigation into the residents' various allegations of corruption in the state judicial system. The residents allege that in early 1997, Gigliotti claimed to be a private investigator working on behalf of both the Christian Broadcasting Network, a religious television network founded by Pat Robertson, and the American Center for Law and Justice, a Virginia Beach-based public interest law firm which was also founded by Robertson.
In addition to claiming he served as Robertson's personal bodyguard, Gigliotti said upon conclusion of his investigation he could get not only ACLJ to file a class action lawsuit on their behalf, but also get CBN's flagship program, "The 700 Club", to air a segment about it.
However, in May 1997, the residents learned that not only had Gigliotti's private investigator's license expired four months earlier, but also his ties to CBN and ACLJ were tenuous at best. Through separate lawsuits they filed against Gigliotti, CBN and ACLJ in state and federal courts, Lemley and Hart discovered that Gigliotti only worked as a security guard for CBN, and his employment ended there in 1995.
Though those suits eventually were dismissed, Hart and Lemley along with Crawford, Holland and Vanderkraats decided to file small claim suit against Gigliotti before the 10-year statute of limitations expired. In West Virginia, a small claim suit involves disputes below $5,000.
On Oct. 9, Gigliotti's attorney, RaeLynn Regula, with the Morgantown law firm of Brewer and Giggenbach, asked the suit be dismissed because the claims the residents made were either vague or previously litigated. After holding a hearing on Regula's motion on Oct. 31, Wilson, without comment, dismissed the case with prejudice.
A lifelong resident of Morgantown, Hart said he isn't surprised at how, after nearly a year, judicial officials are reluctant to rule on his motion.
"Things move pretty slowly here in the Monongalia judicial system," Hart said.
Monongalia Magistrate Court Case No. 07-C-292W