MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> A Delaware County personal injury attorney who claims he does not recall allegedly stealing more than $ 400,000 in settlement funds intended to go to his clients pitched a third pitch Wednesday for has been declared incompetent.
Gregory G. Stagliano, 65, from the 500 block of Chaumont Drive in Radnor, spent about half an hour presenting his case to Common Pleas Court Judge James Bradley against counsel from Defense Counsel John Hickey.
Stagliano is charged with theft by illicit taking, theft of services, theft by deception, and obtaining stolen property, all third-degree crimes, allegedly putting money in his pocket that was supposed to go to nine different victims, whom he in cases of Had represented personal injury. He is also facing an offense due to unauthorized legal practice and will be billed separately in a related insured event.
Investigators, led by Detective Michele Deery, began investigating Stagliano in July 2016 based on advice from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Disciplinary Board. This resulted in an affidavit of the likely cause for his arrest. The investigation found a similar pattern in each of the nine cases, with Stagliano allegedly depositing funds intended for clients for personal use into his own Santander Interest on Lawyers Trust account.
In one case, Stagliano allegedly paid a customer $ 38,000 under a “payment plan” for personal injury compensation of $ 205,000. This client’s widow claimed that Stagliano told her there was no more money in the account after the husband’s death in August 2015. In another case, he still owed $ 40,000 of a $ 65,000 payout to a car accident victim, but the account in this case was only $ 133 in it, according to the affidavit.
Chief Justice Michael Coll had initially declared Stagliano incompetent because he claimed he had no memory of the entire period in which he allegedly pocketed the money due to a combination of medication and a memory-related lesion on a lobe of the brain.
Coll held a competence hearing in 2019 and overturned his original decision after Dr. Robert G. Thompson, an expert in forensic and clinical psychology, testified that Stagliano meets the competency criteria because he understands the charges against him and can assist an attorney in his defense.
Stagliano questioned this conclusion on Wednesday, arguing that the whole of 2015 was “completely over” for him, although he can now remember better because he was physically unable to create new memories during that time.
He argued that his case was different from that of a rape or murder suspect who claims to have forgotten the specific day of the crime because his entire memory is absent. While courts have ruled that memory loss per say is not an incompetence, appellate courts have ruled that memory loss can rise to this level if it implies an inability to help with the defense.
During his arguments, Stagliano relied heavily on a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that found he was medically unable to defend himself against his disciplinary measures, which he said had never been challenged by the Commonwealth . He said the issue is now closed and effectively eliminates any criminal prosecution.
Stagliano filed a second motion to be declared incompetent in December 2019, which Bradley rejected in October 2020. Stagliano requested on Wednesday that this decision be set aside pending a full hearing with witnesses and evidence on the issues.
He said he was trying to get certain documents from Norristown State Hospital, including evidence of Thompson’s competency degree, as well as a mediation form, which he said may never have been submitted to the district attorney during a three-month stay at the county jail which he considered illegal imprisonment.
“I’m not trying to delay this,” said Stagliano. “I’m not having a good time. I am in hell on earth. Look at my hands – I’m doing demolition work. I am 65 years old. I want to get this over with, I don’t want to delay it for another minute. But I want a hearing in my own county. I just want a hearing. That’s it.”
Assistant District Attorney Douglas Rhoads denied the motion as well as a separate motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and attacked the idea that Stagliano cannot contribute to his own defense – as his arguments demonstrate on Wednesday.
According to Stagliano, Rhoads said he had already participated in his defense by collecting records and personally sending emails requesting information.
Rhoads added that Stagliano has demonstrated the ability to retrieve information and combine that memory with abstract legal concepts to provide legal arguments regarding the Supreme Court ruling. Regarding this decision itself, Rhoads argued that it was merely an administrative matter that did not affect the prosecution.
Hickey also made a quick argument for incompetence and the need for a hearing. Just because Stagliano is better now than it was five years ago doesn’t change the fact that he can’t remember the events surrounding the alleged criminal behavior, Hickey said, which is at the heart of the case. He reiterated Stagliano’s argument that the defense only wanted to provide the judge with evidence of competency through expert reports and testimony before the matter was decided.
Bradley didn’t make a decision on Wednesday but has set a new status date for March 16.