After listening to two hours of conflicting testimony about a fight involving shoving, hair-pulling and biting, a Prince William County judge ruled yesterday that the woman formerly known as Lorena Bobbitt did not assault her mother.
"If you asked me if I think she's guilty, I'd say yes," Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge James Robeson said of the defendant, who could have faced up to a year in jail for the alleged assault. But, he said, "I have reasonable doubt, so I'll find her not guilty."
Lorena Gallo, 29, who now uses her maiden name, became internationally known in 1994 for slicing off her husband's penis. She was arrested in December and charged with assault and battery after police said her mother, Elvia Gallo, showed up at a neighbor's house -- her face scratched and puffy -- and complained that Lorena Gallo had repeatedly punched her.
Outside the courthouse, Lorena Gallo briefly spoke with reporters, insisting that she and her mother are still very close.
"My mother and I love each other very much," said Gallo, who lives with her parents in Woodbridge. "To me, blood is thicker than water."
Elvia Gallo testified yesterday that she was the one who started the fight on Dec. 5. Speaking through a court-appointed interpreter, she told Robeson she was pestering her daughter about bills, followed her into the bathroom and struck her with the door as she pushed it open. Lorena Gallo followed her into the hallway where, she said, she pushed her daughter and they locked arms.
"She would not let go of me, so I bit her," said Elvia Gallo, who then demonstrated the "tussle" with the help of the interpreter. "I scratched Lorena in the face."
She denied that the lines and marks on her face that night came from injuries inflicted by her daughter. "It was a pimple, a big one," she told the court.
Nancy Glass, a neighbor who comforted Elvia Gallo after the fight, told the court an entirely different story, based, she said, on what Elvia told her that night.
Glass testified that Elvia Gallo said she was watching TV when Lorena walked into the room. "They said something to each other, and then all of a sudden Lorena jumped on her. . . . She was beating her with her fists in the head."
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Kassabian, who prosecuted the case, said that his office takes domestic violence seriously but that his job is harder when the victim doesn't want to proceed. "This was a difficult case," Kassabian said.
Lorena Gallo, a native of Ecuador, has tried to stay out of the spotlight since a jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity for cutting off the penis of her then-husband, John Wayne Bobbitt. The couple was divorced in 1995.
Gallo's attorney, William Boyce, said she is "very happy to have this episode behind her, and she'd like to resume a normal life free of publicity." He added, "Hope springs eternal."