Carlos Ghigliotti went to the stump dump on Dogwood Road in Granite on Oct. 31 to deliver some documents he had prepared for the Maryland Environmental Service, which was trying to deal with the pervasive fire which has burned there since February 1991.
Mr. Ghigliotti, who owns Infrared Technologies, with offices in Columbia and Greenbelt, had surveyed the site for the state agency. His instructions were to deliver the resulting documents to the agency "at the site," meaning the stump dump.
His good try at fulfilling his contract ended up in Dundalk District Court yesterday, where he was found guilty of assault against James F. Jett, 44, owner of the five-acre stump dump and a nearby 35-acre tree farm and nursery.
Mr. Jett was found not guilty of an assault charge filed by Mr. Ghigliotti stemming from the same incident.
Mr. Ghigliotti, 36, was given 18 months of unsupervised probation and a $250 fine, plus court costs. He said he will appeal his conviction to Circuit Court.
Mr. Ghigliotti's troubles started when his Lincoln Town Car car foundered to its chassis in mud on Mr. Jett's property while he was looking for someone to take the documents.
"I asked this guy on a tractor if he had a chain, and he said no and left," Mr. Ghigliotti testified. "I dug the car out myself." Then he located the same man and asked him his name.
According to Mr. Ghigliotti, the man he later identified as Mr. Jett said, "I'm the watchman here."
Mr. Ghigliotti also claimed that Mr. Jett used the name "Jim Davis." Mr. Ghigliotti thought Mr. Jett was a county employee and gave him the state's papers, telling him to see that George Perdikakis, director of the agency, got them.
On Nov. 3, Mr. Perdikakis called Mr. Ghigliotti and asked him how the documents, which the state was to pay for, had shown up in the hands of Mr. Jett's lawyer at a court hearing on the stump dump.
"It was embarrassing," Mr. Perdikakis told Mr. Ghigliotti.
The light bulb went on in Mr. Ghigliotti's head. He had been suckered. He went back to the Dogwood Road property with the suspicion that the watchman, Jim Davis, and James Jett were one and the same.
Mr. Jett testified that he was tagging trees on a hillside on Nov. 3 when someone came up behind him and shouted, "You're a liar. He also cursed me," Mr. Jett said.
"He hit me in the neck from behind and knocked me to the ground," Mr. Jett testified. "My glasses were knocked off, and he was kicking me."
The pair then grappled, according to testimony, and rolled down the muddy hillside locked in each other's arms before Mr. Jett freed himself and ran to a nearby trailer, with Mr. Ghigliotti close behind.
Inside the trailer was Baltimore County Battalion Chief George M. Folio, there to keep an eye on the smoldering fire, which was declared "contained" last week. Chief Folio quickly found himself between the two combatants.
"Mr. Jett came in first, hollering that he was being attacked by a maniac," Chief Folio testified.
Mr. Jett urged Chief Folio to call the police.
"The other man came in right after, and I asked him to sit down, which he did. Then Mr. Jett ran out the door," Chief Folio testified.
Police and an ambulance responded to Chief Folio's call. Mr. Jett was treated for scratches to the face, but he refused to go to the hospital. Each man later filed assault charges against the other.
Mr. Ghigliotti claimed in court yesterday that Mr. Jett had swung first and that he was only acting in self-defense, but Judge Barbara Jung didn't buy it.
"In view of your clean record," she said to Mr. Ghigliotti, "I'm going to give you probation before judgment, but I think you threw the first punch."