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Smolinski Appeal of Civil Judgment for Madeline Gleason

Smolinski Appeal of Civil Judgment for Madeline Gleason

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Published by estannard
Brief filed with the Connecticut Appellate Court appealing the judgment for Madeline Gleason in her defamation suit against the Janice Smolinski and Paula Smolinski Bell.
Brief filed with the Connecticut Appellate Court appealing the judgment for Madeline Gleason in her defamation suit against the Janice Smolinski and Paula Smolinski Bell.

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Published by: estannard on Apr 19, 2013
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12/01/2014

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On August 24, 2004, William “Billy” Smolinski disappeared never to be heard from

again. Billy was a 31-year-old tow truck driver who was very close to his parents and

sister. (See Pl.’s Exhibit 9, John Murray, Trying to Find a Missing Child A Mother’s

Anguish, Waterbury Observer July 2006, at 24, App. 1.) Billy lived in the town of Waterbury

and the “investigation” of his disappearance is within the primary jurisdiction of the

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Waterbury Police Department. Many of the issues underlying this case stem from that

Department’s failure to pursue the case in any meaningful way and the Smolinskis’ struggle

to change that. (See generally App. 1-3.)

A.

THE “LOVE TRIANGLE”

Prior to his disappearance, Billy dated Madeleine Gleason. (11/29/2011 Tr. at

85:17-25.) At the time, Gleason was a 51-year-old bus driver who lived and worked in

Woodbridge. (Id.) There is no dispute that Gleason and Billy broke off their relationship in

the days leading up to Billy’s disappearance and that Gleason was one of the last people

ever to see him or talk to him. (See 11/29/2011 Tr. at 122:17-27.)

The reasons for the breakup and how it relates to Billy’s disappearance are very

much in dispute. The Record reveals Gleason either lied in her trial testimony or in

statements to police concerning this critical point. According to Gleason’s statements to

police in the days following Billy’s disappearance, Billy “wanted to break up with her

because he thought she was cheating on him and he left her place early morning (8/24/04)

a little depressed.” (See Def.s’ Trial Exhibit B & C, App. 4.) In an August 5, 2005 interview

with police, Gleason admitted that, while dating Billy, she was having an affair with married

Woodbridge politician, Christian Sorenson. (App. 10.) She indicated she believed Billy had

suspected the same for some time, and she finally told Billy about the affair on their trip to

Florida in the week prior to Billy’s disappearance. (Id.) Upon learning this, she told police

Billy grabbed her cell phone from her and “they had a fight” concerning calls and/or texts

Gleason received from Sorenson. (Id.) Gleason admitted she saw Billy on the morning he

disappeared, when he placed a ladder against her bedroom window to try to get in. (Id.)

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Gleason told a much different story while on the witness stand nearly seven years

after Billy disappeared; claiming she was not in a relationship with Sorenson when Billy was

murdered. (See 11/29/2011 Tr. at 91:1-5.) She further claimed, in contrast to her

contemporaneous statements to police, she broke up with Billy because, as a 51-year-old,

she was tired of “babysitting” a 31-year-old. (Id.) Although she admitted she had a prior

relationship with Sorenson, she claimed the relationship ended before she was with Billy

and that she had no contact with Sorenson until after Billy disappeared. (Id. at 127:11-13.)

Also in contrast to her prior police statements, she testified the “love triangle” surrounding

Billy’s disappearance, which was widely reported in the media, was a complete “fabrication”

by the Smolinskis. (See id. at 96:25-26.)

In an attempt to illustrate Gleason’s inconsistencies, Defendants subpoenaed

Sorenson as a trial witness. (See 12/5/2011 Tr. at 28:17-18.) In an off-the-record, in-

Chambers ruling, the trial judge prohibited Defendants from asking Sorenson any questions

about his relationship with Gleason. That ruling was prejudicial because, like Gleason,

Sorenson gave wildly inconsistent statements concerning the events leading up to Billy’s

disappearance. In questioning by police, Sorenson initially denied any relationship with

Gleason and any contact with Billy. (App. 5.) Under pressure, he eventually admitted

having an affair with Gleason while he was married and presented police with an audio

tape of a call Billy made on the day of his disappearance stating, “Chris you better watch

your back at all times.” (Id.) Sorenson immediately notified Gleason of Billy’s threat. (Id.)

Because of the trial court’s in-Chambers restrictions, Defendants’ direct examination

of Sorenson was extremely limited. In the few questions Defendants were permitted to ask

him, Sorenson acknowledged Billy contacted him three times in the hours leading up to his

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disappearance and, on the day he disappeared, Billy left a threatening cell phone message

on Sorenson’s voicemail, which Sorenson eventually turned over to police. (See 12/5/2011

Tr. at 29:27-30:9.) Sorenson also acknowledged his father is in business with Gleason’s

employer, B and B Transportation, Inc. (“B&B”) (an original plaintiff in this lawsuit) owner

Brad Cohen, who was also the driving force behind the three criminal complaints against

the Smolinskis and one of the three fact witnesses providing the sole “support” for Plaintiff’s

claims. (Id. at 28-29.)

The Smolinskis were fully aware of the Gleason-Sorenson connection and all the

facts contained within the various police reports because those reports had been widely

reported in the media. (See, e.g., App. 1-3.) Moreover, the Smolinskis were fully aware

Gleason was identified as a suspect in Billy’s disappearance and that she had never been

cleared as such. (See generally App. 1; see also Def.s’ Trial Exhibit A at 2, App. 15.)

According to police reports, Gleason has been asked to take a polygraph regarding the

incident. (App. 15.) Gleason has refused on advice of counsel. (11/29/2011 Tr. at 118:2-

14.) Further, to this day, Gleason admits she continues to withhold information from police

concerning Billy’s disappearance. (See id.)

B.

THE SMOLINSKI FAMILY’S DESPERATE SEARCH FOR BILLY AND GLEASON’S
BIZARRE RESPONSE TO THAT SEARCH

Billy Smolinski was last seen on a Tuesday evening. The family immediately notified

the police when they were unable to reach him and were told they needed to wait three

days to file a missing person’s report, which they did. (See 12/5/2011 Tr. at 12:12-15.)

Paula Bell, Billy’s sister, called Gleason on that Wednesday and reported the family had not

seen or heard from and the family was concerned. (Id. at 11:23-25.) Paula also checked in

with Gleason early that Friday to see if she had heard from Billy. (Id.) Paula and her

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parents filed a missing person’s report with the Waterbury Police late that Friday night, after

which they drove past Billy’s house to see if he had come home. (Id. at 32.) They found

Gleason and her friend Fran Vrabel sitting in Billy’s house. (Id. at 32:25-33:2.) Gleason

drew Mrs. Smolinski’s attention to some unsigned cards on a coffee table she claimed were

“from Billy.” (Id. at 44:11-17.)

The next day, the extended Smolinski family banded together in a community-wide

effort to find Billy. (See 12/5/2011 Tr. at 34:1-2.) The family produced “thousands” of

missing person’s posters, and members of the extended family put the posters up

throughout the state of Connecticut and in several other states. (Id.) The posters feature

pictures of Billy and urge anyone with information concerning Billy’s disappearance to call a

hotline. (See Pl.s’ Trial Exhibits 1-2, App. 20-21.) Gleason is not identified or featured in

any way on any of the posters or materials. (Id.) The family posted the posters on

telephone poles, billboards and in other public spaces. (12/5/2011 Tr. at 44.)

Just a couple weeks after Billy disappeared, and while their campaign was in full

swing, Bill Smolinski (Billy’s dad) noticed flyers he had put up on Route 63, the main road

into New Haven, were taken down. (Id. at 34:20-27.) When the flyers were replaced, they

came down the next day. (Id.) So, he posted a flyer and hid in the woods to investigate the

cause. (Id. at 35.) Bill Smolinski was shocked and horrified to observe Gleason pull her

school bus over, get off the bus, and brazenly tear down the poster and throw it on the

ground. (Id.) Mrs. Smolinski reported this activity to police, who told her she needed to

videotape Gleason taking the posters down for any action to be taken. (Id. at 50:7-9.)

From the very beginning of the investigation, Gleason admited she was tearing down

the missing persons posters. She acknowledged bringing her children with her to tear

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down posters. (Id. at 131:17-19.) She admitted she and her friend, Fran Vrabel, followed

the mother of the murdered son and tore the posters down as Mrs. Smolinski was putting

the posters up; right in front of Ms. Smolinski. (See id. at 132:1-24.) While Gleason offers

general accusations regarding “the Smolinskis” following her, the only specific incidents on

which any testimony is offered involve Plaintiff and her cohorts following Janice Smolinksi

to where she is posting flyers, getting in Mrs. Smolinski’s face, and ripping down the

posters. (See 11/9/2011 Tr. 51:1-12; Pl.s’ Trial Ex. 4.) Gleason further acknowledged her

friend Melissa Depallo, one of three witnesses who testified on her behalf, vandalized

missing person’s posters featuring Billy by spray-painting them, cutting the faces out of

them and writing things on them. (11/29/2011 Tr. at 105:11-14.)

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