FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
from the Circuit Court for Collier County; Christine H.
P. Miller of Mangone & Miller Law Offices, Naples, for
Janis Torello, pro se.
Caterino challenges the final judgment of injunction for
protection against stalking entered following an evidentiary
hearing, arguing that there was insufficient evidence of two
instances of stalking. She asserts that the evidence
demonstrated that there was a legitimate purpose for the
contact between her and Gail Torello, the petitioner. Ms.
Caterino further contends that the evidence demonstrated
merely a "tit for tat" scenario between two
neighbors and that the interactions would not cause a
reasonable person to experience substantial emotional
distress. We agree and reverse.
April 6, 2018, Mrs. Torello filed a petition seeking an
injunction for protection against stalking against Ms.
Caterino, her neighbor, alleging that since January 2018 Ms.
Caterino has been following, harassing, and verbally
attacking her. At the evidentiary hearing on the petition,
Mrs. Torello testified that Ms. Caterino has been following
her while videotaping and photographing her and that Ms.
Caterino has made threatening comments such as
"you're going down," "you'll get
yours," and "you're all alone." Mrs.
Torello claimed that when she drives by Ms. Caterino, Ms.
Caterino looks at her "like she absolutely wants to
kill" her and that Ms. Caterino stares at her whenever
she is outside. In February 2018 Ms. Caterino sent Mrs.
Torello a letter directing Mrs. Torello to "CEASE AND
DESIST ALL DEFAMATION OF OR [SIC] LORRAINE CATERINO'S
CHARACTER AND REPUTATION," failing which Ms. Caterino
would pursue all available legal remedies. The letter, which
was admitted into evidence, purported to be from
Florida's Civil Law Group, and Ms. Caterino signed it as
treasurer. Mrs. Torello asserted that Ms. Caterino had
drafted the letter herself and that the purported law firm
does not exist. Mrs. Torello also testified that Ms. Caterino
complained to the code enforcement division of Collier County
about her in-home pet sitting business, that an enforcement
officer conducted an investigation, and that the case had
been closed. Mrs. Torello stated that her pet sitting
business did not violate any county codes or the
homeowner's association (HOA) declaration. Mrs. Torello
further testified that on April 5, the day before she filed
the petition, Ms. Caterino approached Mrs. Torello while she
was outside of her home, got in her face, and began yelling
obscenities at her. Ms. Caterino refused to leave Mrs.
Torello's property, so Mrs. Torello called the police but
Ms. Caterino took off in her car before the police arrived.
Later that same evening while Mrs. Torello was at an HOA
meeting, her surveillance system captured Ms. Caterino
entering upon Mrs. Torello's property and removing a
building permit that was attached to the garage door. Mrs.
Torello again contacted law enforcement. The video of the
incident was admitted into evidence. Mrs. Torello contended
that Ms. Caterino's conduct has affected her everyday
life: she does not want to go outside, she feels
uncomfortable having company to her home, and she has trouble
sleeping at night because Ms. Caterino is always outside with
Torello's husband also testified at the hearing. He
succeeded Ms. Caterino as the HOA president on January 31 or
February 1, 2018. Mr. Torello claimed that Ms. Caterino has
made their lives "hell." He indicated that Mrs.
Torello is miserable and that Ms. Caterino's conduct has
affected his relationship with Mrs. Torello. Though Mr.
Torello did not observe Ms. Caterino yell at Mrs. Torello
while she was outside on April 5, he claimed that Mrs.
Torello was "shaking like a leaf" afterward.
Caterino also testified at the hearing and explained that
"this is a very simple situation that has gone
completely out of control in a very small neighborhood where
we all used to get along." She claimed that she had
served as the president of the HOA for nine years and
explained that the governing documents prohibit homeowners
from operating businesses out of their homes. She claimed
that because Mrs. Torello has been running a business out of
her home for the last couple of years, she asked the attorney
for the HOA to send Mrs. Torello a cease and desist letter,
which angered Mrs. Torello. The letter from the attorney for
the HOA, dated January 29, 2018, was admitted into evidence,
and it cited the specific section of the HOA declaration that
prohibits homeowners from operating an in-home business.
After the letter was sent, Mrs. Torello texted Ms. Caterino,
claiming that Ms. Caterino was "ruining her life"
and that Mrs. Torello was the "one person that can wreck
a whole neighborhood." Ms. Caterino did not provide the
court with these alleged text messages. Ms. Caterino admitted
that she had taken pictures of Mrs. Torello walking dogs but
claimed that she had been asked to take the pictures by the
individual investigating the alleged county code violation;
she denied that the case had been closed. With regard to the
incident outside of Mrs. Torello's home on April 5, Ms.
Caterino testified that she was about to leave her house to
pick up a friend from the airport and when she opened her
garage door her dog ran out and over to Mrs. Torello's
yard. When she went to collect the dog, Mrs. Torello told her
to put the dog on a leash and get out of her yard. Ms.
Caterino admitted that she then yelled an obscenity at Mrs.
Torello who, in turn, threatened to call the police. Ms.
Caterino then got in her car and drove to the airport. And
with regard to the incident captured on Mrs. Torello's
surveillance system later that evening, Ms. Caterino claimed
that she entered upon Mrs. Torello's property while
holding a document which expressed her frustration and that
of several neighbors with Mrs. Torello and her in-home pet
sitting business. The document Ms. Caterino claimed to have
had in her hand was admitted into evidence only for the
purpose of corroborating her story but not for its content.
Caterino's witness, a neighbor, testified that she had
never seen Ms. Caterino give Mrs. Torello dirty looks and was
unaware of any difficulties between the parties.
At the close of the evidence, the court made the following
THE COURT: Okay. Thank you.
Court's prepared to make findings and rule on the
The requirement for the Court's finding is to make a
finding that two incidents of violence or stalking was
[sic] committed by the respondent which were directed
against the petitioner or the petitioner's immediate
The allegations in the petition are between January of 2018
and April 6 of 2018. One of the two incidents of stalking
must have been within six months of filing the petition.
May I have the exhibits please?
The letter received [from the attorney for the HOA] dated
January 29 of 2018 is not stalking by the respondent.
Ms. Caterino did not object to the admissibility of a
letter from Florida['s] Civil Law Group, which she
signed as treasurer. I didn't hear any evidence or
testimony that Ms. Caterino is the treasurer of ...