Critics have slammed Gabby Petito’s boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, for staying mum in the wake of her puzzling disappearance — but legal experts say it may be the right call.
“I am never confident my client had nothing to do with anything,” said attorney Ron Kuby. “I don’t believe my clients when they say they’re guilty. I don’t believe my clients when they say they’re innocent. The best legal advice is to say nothing.”
Laundrie returned to Florida in the couple’s van without Petito on Sept. 1. He didn’t report her missing and refused to speak to her family or the police. He has maintained that silence even as Petito’s distraught parents have publicly pleaded with him to cooperate with authorities.
Even though there are several scenarios that would potentially absolve Laundrie of foul play, Kuby said he’d still be cautious about letting him open his mouth. She could have accidentally fallen to her death and Laundrie feared he’d be blamed for it. Or perhaps Petito disappeared to create a social media frenzy that would enhance her blogger profile, and he was sworn to secrecy.
“These are possibilities consistent with innocence, but no one ever talked themselves out of trouble in talking to the police,” he said.
He conceded that this guidance can be a PR nightmare, but that public condemnation is preferable to disclosing information that gets a suspect convicted.
“From a moral standpoint, from an ethical standpoint, from a duty to treat others in a kind way, it’s a gross violation of society norms,” Kuby said of Laundrie’s silence. “This is of course is why people hate lawyers.”
Former Manhattan prosecutor-turned-defense lawyer Mark Bederow said there are a lot of good reasons for Laundrie not to talk — especially if he’s “guilty of something horrible.”
Bederow said Laundrie’s attorney has to balance bad optics with the risk of self-incrimination.
“There’s no question that his behavior is extraordinarily suspicious and his decision now to stand quiet, although permissible under the law, looks terrible,” added Bederow. “But he’s doing nothing unlawful or legally inappropriate and it may be in his best interest.”
Jeffrey Lichtman, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s attorney, said he would only let his client open his mouth if he were 100 percent certain he was innocent.
“If you have an alibi, and you know your client didn’t do it, of course, you’re going to let them talk because you want them to drop him as a target,” he said. But if you’re not sure, even though “the guy looks wildly guilty right now,” it’s safer to stay quiet, he said.