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Aug 7, 2019 10:24 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Suit Against Southampton Town Justice Barbara Wilson Could Go Before Jury This Month

Aug 7, 2019 11:51 AM

A court justice in both Southampton Town and Southampton Village could soon be in a courtroom, but not on the bench, if she can’t settle a lawsuit with her neighbor regarding an incident that occurred at a Southampton Village Board of Historic and Architectural Review Board meeting in 2015.

Southampton resident Tony Gugliotta filed a $2.2 million lawsuit in 2015 in State Supreme Court against his Elm Street neighbor, Southampton Justice Barbara Wilson, for accusing him of being a “sexual predator” and “sexual pedophile,” according to court documents.

Ms. Wilson had an application before the village ARB in 2015 to modify her home by installing a staircase on the exterior of her house on Elm Street. Some of Ms. Wilson’s neighbors expressed opposition to the addition, because the lights she planned to install would be disruptive, they charged.

Her next-door neighbor, Mr. Gugliotta, who was opposed the staircase addition, questioned why it was needed, noting that Ms. Wilson’s daughter, who was 16 at the time, had a room downstairs, and that he did not understand why she needed a staircase to get out of the house if there was a fire — the reason Ms. Wilson gave to the board for needing the staircase.

During the meeting, which took place on April 13, 2015, Ms. Wilson accused Mr. Gugliotta of installing a security camera on his house and pointing it toward her young daughter’s bedroom window.

Video from the same meeting shows Ms. Wilson addressing her neighbors’ concerns, specifically, Mr. Gugliotta’s.

“First of all, I’ll try to say this as calmly as a mother,” she said, turning toward Mr. Gugliotta. “I’m so glad you’re worried about my daughter.”

Curtis Highsmith, the chairman of the ARB at the time, told Ms. Wilson to address the board, according to court documents.

Minutes later, Ms. Wilson told the board, “Just, when people bring up my daughter, it’s a little upsetting to me … especially when grown men want to look at little girls.”

Mr. Highsmith then cut in and stopped her.

Once the hearing was closed, Ms. Wilson could be heard on the video — which was broadcast by SEA-TV, and posted on the Southampton Village website — telling Mr. Gugligotta to stay away from her daughter.

The lawsuit was brought against Ms. Wilson shortly after the incident, accusing Ms. Wilson of calling Mr. Gugliotta a “sexual predator” and “sexual pedophile.” In 2016, she asked for the lawsuit to be dropped, because, through correspondence, Mr. Gugliotta’s Melville-based attorney, Anton J. Borovina, failed to state the facts leading up to the lawsuit. The motion was denied, and Ms. Wilson filed an appeal in May 2017. The appeal was argued in March 2018, and likewise was denied.

The appellate judges found that the lawsuit had merit and should be allowed to proceed, saying, “The challenged statements, considered in the context in which they were made, tended to expose the plaintiff to public comment, hatred, ridicule, aversion or disgrace.”

The judges also said Ms. Wilson did not have absolute privilege — immunity or protection of charges stemming from comments made in front of a regulatory board at a public meeting — because it is given only to statements that are pertinent to matters before the board.

A jury trial was requested by Mr. Gugliotta and is expected to begin on August 19, according to Mr. Borovina, who added last week that it was likely that it would actually happen, but he would not rule out a settlement being reached beforehand.

Ms. Wilson’s attorney, Brian Lester of East Hampton-based Tarbet & Lester, PLLC, declined to comment on Friday, other than to say that he was confident that the court would make the appropriate decision on the matter.

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