'Best of luck': Laundrie family attorney reacts to Petito lawsuit against Utah police
MOAB CITY, Utah - If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
The Laundrie family attorney, Steve Bertolino, wished the Petito-Schmidt family "best of luck" in their wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab Police Department in Utah on Monday, but he also said he does not believe that the officers involved did anything wrong.
Almost a year after Moab police responded to a domestic violence call alleging that Brian Laundrie, 23, had slapped and hit his ex-fiancee, Gabby Petito, 22, in public outside a grocery store on the city’s main street, Petito’s parents announced they intend to file a wrongful death lawsuit alleging the officers failed to recognize their daughter was a victim of domestic violence and mishandled the call.
The officers, Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins, separated the couple for the night, leaving Petito with their converted camper van and dropping Laundrie off at a local motel — despite acknowledging on bodycam video that Utah law required them to make an arrest in domestic violence cases.
GABBY PETITO'S PARENTS ANNOUNCE WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT AGAINST MOAB POLICE OVER BRIAN LAUNDRIE 911 CALL
Left, Brian Laundrie on police bodycam video in Moab, Utah; right, attorney Steve Bertolino sits for an interview with Fox News Digital. (North Port Police/Stephanie Pagones/Fox News Digital)
Bertolino said he was speaking on his own behalf and not for Chris or Roberta Laundrie.
"The Moab police, in my view, did not contribute to the death of Gabby Petito in any way," the New York-based attorney, who had represented Brian Laundrie before his death, told Fox News Digital. "My understanding of the Moab incident is that Gabby was the aggressor and admitted on camera to hitting Brian first."
Lawyers for Petito’s parents announced Monday a notice of claim for a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab Police Department and several employees involved in the call directly and indirectly.
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"The Moab police report indicated that they could have arrested Gabby but chose not to and instead separated Brian and Gabby," Bertolino said. "A full five days after the Moab incident took place Brian flew home to Florida from Salt Lake City. During the time while Brian was in Florida, Gabby was communicating with her family and others while she waited in Salt Lake City for Brian to return."
Laundrie flew home to Florida for a week, then returned to Utah, where he and Petito continued their cross-country van-life road trip — but not for long. By the end of August, according to lawyers for Petito’s parents and the FBI, she had been beaten and choked to death at a campsite north of Jackson, Wyoming.
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"The intervening days and events from the Moab incident to the date of Gabby's death appear to be far enough removed from the reasonable actions of the officers on the scene," Bertolino said. "I see no legal liability, but maybe the city of Moab will settle the matter. So, best of luck to the Petito family in their quest to recover for their loss from another source."
In the wrongful death lawsuit, attorneys circled an area where marks were left on Gabby Petito's arm. The original image was captured on Moab City police body camera footage.
An outside investigation into the Aug. 12 domestic violence incident between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie in Moab, Utah, found "unintentional mistakes" — and issued a number of recommendations on how the department should move forward.
Moab has not provided Fox News Digital with any documents, comment or confirmation that any of these recommendations had been followed. A city spokesperson declined to comment Monday citing a policy on pending litigation.
The family alleges that Moab officers Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins failed to properly handle a 911 call in which a witness claimed he saw Brian Laundrie hitting Petito and trying to steal her phone and drive off without her in the middle of downtown Moab. The court filing also indicates former Moab Police Chief Bret Edge and former Assistant Chief Braydon Palmer inadequately prepared and trained their officers.
"We believe that these officers were negligent, and their negligence contributed to Gabby’s death," Brian Stewart, an attorney for the Petito-Schmidt family, told reporters Monday, later adding, "They did not understand the law and did not apply the law properly in Gabby’s situation."
Bertolino has long maintained that he does not believe the Moab officers were wrong.
He told Fox News Digital after the independent investigator’s report into the incident was released on Jan. 12 that he believes the officers "did the best they could" and "did the right thing."
"To label every disagreement between couples a citable domestic violence incident is to criminalize human emotions and reactions that should be dealt with outside of the criminal code," he said. "In my opinion, the officers did the right thing by separating the two young adults."
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