On Monday, 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, saying that while he supports them, he does not believe that the officers involved did anything wrong.
Nearly a year ago, Moab police responded to a report of domestic violence alleging that Brian Laundrie, 23, had slapped and hit his then-fiancee, Gabby Petito, 22, in public outside of a grocery store. On Monday morning, Petito’s parents announced they planned to file a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming the officers failed to recognize their daughter was a victim of domestic violence and therefore mishandled the situation and contributed to their daughter’s death.
The officers, Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins, separated the couple for the night, leaving Petito with the couple’s converted camper van and dropping Laundrie off at a local motel. The officers acknowledged on body cam video that Utah law required them to make an arrest in domestic violence cases, but did not arrest Laundrie.
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.
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,” said Bertolino, the New York-based attorney who had represented Brian Laundrie before his death. “My understanding of the Moab incident is that Gabby was the aggressor and admitted on camera to hitting Brian first.”
“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 before he returned to Utah and he and Petito continued their van-life road trip. However, it wasn’t much longer before Petito had been beaten and choked to death at a campsite north of Jackson, Wyoming, according to lawyers for Petito’s parents and the FBI.
“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.”
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