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The attorney who represents Brian Laundrie’s parents has filed a motion this week to dismiss a civil lawsuit filed by the parents and stepparents of Gabby Petito.
Attorney Steven Bertolino filed a 20-page motion on Wednesday asking a judge in Florida to drop the lawsuit with prejudice, Bertolino confirmed to Oxygen.com.
"A motion to dismiss the baseless and frivolous lawsuit commenced by Gabby Petito’s parents was filed in court," he told Oxygen.com in a statement.
In the motion, he claims that the parents have no facts to back up their claims of "intentional infliction of emotional distress."
In January, the FBI announced that Laundrie — who was found dead last October at the age of 23 — claimed responsibility for Petito’s death in a notebook found near his body; they closed the case as a result.
Petito, 22, had vanished in early September while on a road trip with Laundrie, a disappearance that kicked off a national search that attracted worldwide interest. Her family reported her missing more than a week after Laundrie returned to his parents' home in North Port, Florida without her.
A few days later, Laundrie — who had subsequently been classified by police as a person of interest in Petito's disappearance — also vanished.
Petito's remains were found in Wyoming on Sept. 19 and an autopsy revealed that she had been strangled to death, likely weeks before she was found. When investigators later found Laundrie's body in a Florida nature preserve in October following a weeks-long manhunt, they determined he died from a self-inflicted gunshot.
Earlier this month, Gabby’s father Joseph Petito, her mother Nichole Schmidt and their respective spouses filed a civil lawsuit alleging that Laundrie’s parents attempted to help their son flee justice knowing that he'd killed Petito. They are seeking $30,000 in damages for "extreme and outrageous conduct” from Christopher and Roberta Laundrie.
“Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie knew of the mental suffering and anguish of Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, and knew that they could alleviate, at least in part, such mental suffering and anguish by disclosing what they knew about the well-being and the location of the remains of Gabrielle Petito, yet they repeatedly refused to do so,” the lawsuit alleges. “In doing so, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie acted with malice or great indifference to the rights of Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt.”
Bertolino, however, claims that the Laundries were merely exercising their constitutional right to remain silent.
"The gravamen of the claimed wrongdoing is that the Laundries exercised their constitutional rights and essentially made no statements to Plaintiffs or law enforcement," the motion states. ("Gravamen" is a legal term meaning the core of something.)
"While the [Petito-Schmidt families] allege some facts, those facts could never establish a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress because the Laundries’ ‘actions’ were legally permissible, constitutionally protected, not outrageous and do not give rise to any cause of action," it addes.
In a statement, Bertolino said that his clients "can never be liable for exercising their legal rights in a permissible way."
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