A state Supreme Court jury has ordered a Southampton town and village justice to pay $250,000 to a builder for comments she made about him four years ago during a televised public meeting.
The jury on Thursday voted 6-0 that Barbara Wilson defamed her next-door neighbor, Anthony Gugliotta, in April 2015 when she said during a Southampton Village architectural review hearing that he had aimed a security camera toward her teen daughter's bedroom window. She made the comment during a hearing regarding her application to build an exterior staircase at her home on Elm Street.
The jury reached its decision in about 40 minutes following a three-day trial before state Supreme Court Justice George Nolan in Riverhead, said Gugliotta's lawyer, Anton J. Borovina of Melville.
Gugliotta, owner of Sayville-based TS Construction, had sued Wilson for $2.2 million for defamation of character.
“He’s extremely pleased with the outcome," Borovina said Friday. "It's a vindication for Mr. Gugliotta, and the jury sent a message. This kind of conduct cannot and will not be tolerated, especially when these kinds of words are said by a judge.”
Attempts to reach Wilson and her lawyer, Brian Lester of East Hampton, were unsuccessful.
Wilson's term as a town justice expires in December 2021, according to the town justice court website. She also serves as a Southampton Village Court justice.
Wilson and Gugliotta both attended the April 13, 2015, hearing before the Southampton Village Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review. Gugliotta was one of several people who spoke against Wilson's staircase application during the meeting, which was televised on a local government access cable channel.
According to Gugliotta's lawsuit, Wilson spoke during the meeting and said, referring to Gugliotta: "It is just when people bring up my daughter, it gets a little upsetting to me. Especially when grown men want to look at little girls." After the hearing, Wilson warned Gugliotta to stay away from her daughter, the lawsuit said.
Wilson's lawyer had argued that her comments were protected speech because they occurred during a quasi-judicial hearing. Borovina countered that the comments were irrelevant to the issue being discussed.
“She accused my client of essentially being a pedophile stalking little girls,” Borovina said Friday.
Borovina has said previously that the security camera was installed in 2013 when Wilson and Gugliotta were engaged in a dispute over their shared driveway. Gugliotta later gave Wilson easement rights letting her park on part of his property, and he agreed not to point the camera toward Wilson's living areas. Borovina said Gugliotta turned off the camera after they reached that agreement.
Gugliotta and Wilson remain neighbors, Borovina said.