The attorney for a former University of Pennsylvania professor who killed his wife in their Upper Merion home in 2006 wants a new trial or a reduction in the $124 million award against him from the estate of his wife, Ellen Gregory Robb.
Eric Levin, Rafael Robb’s attorney, argued that the jury’s award of $100 million in punitive damages was “grossly excessive” and said it was much more money than Robb had. Levin said the extent of Rafael Robb’s wealth was not shown to the jury during the November civil trial.
However, Judge Thomas Del Ricci said that Rafael Robb’s wealth was not brought in because of a motion Levin filed to preclude that information.
“You created this issue,” Judge Del Ricci said from the bench. “(The) plaintiff was willing to bring in that information.”
Robert Mongeluzzi, the attorney who represented the estate of Ellen Gregory Robb, argued the jury’s judgment was appropriate.
“Your honor should let this jury’s voice stand,” Mongeluzzi said in court.
He explained that the jury’s judgment of $100 million in punitive damages batter’s Rafael Robb financially “as Ellen Robb was physically.”
“I don’t think a $100 million punitive award is outrageous,” Mongeluzzi said after the hearing. “What I think is outrageous is that Rafael Robb intentionally slaughtered his wife. This Montgomery County jury sent a message that we will punish you for that and we will do this to deter others.
“An award like this not only deters people who have a little amount of money but it also deters people who have a lot of money.”
Mongeluzzi said he was still not permitted to speak to the exact amount of money Rafael Robb has.
“I can tell you that he is a multi-millionaire and won’t be for much longer,” Mongeluzzi said.
Levin also argued in court that several of the photos used during the trial in November were inflammatory and prejudiced the jury. He said he argued before the trial to have them precluded from being used in the trial.
Levin also said the way Montgomery County Detectives shielded Olivia Robb, the daughter of Rafael and Ellen Gregory Robb, from her father when she left the court after testifying prejudiced the jury into thinking he was a physical threat to his daughter.
Mongeluzzi told the court that he did not anticipate that happening.
“We were not the engineers of that,” he said.
He explained that Olivia Robb was using the Montgomery County District Attorney’s comfort dog before testifying.
Judge Del Ricci, however, stated that does not make the point moot. He said with Mongeluzzi’s resources, he could have found another comfort dog or another place for Olivia Robb to wait other than the district attorney’s office.
Rafael Robb, who appeared via video link from State Correctional Institute Albion, did not say anything during the hearing.
Judge Del Ricci took the arguments under advisement and said he will rule on them in writing.
Levin declined to comment to reporters outside of the courtroom.
Rafael Robb, 64, a former economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania who specialized in game theory, pleaded guilty in 2007 to the 2006 killing of his wife on the 600 block of Forest Road in Upper Merion. The plea deal withdrew charges of first- and third-degree murder and replaced them with one count of voluntary manslaughter. Rafael Robb was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison. He is expected to be released in 2017.
Rafael Robb has said the killing was the result of an argument on Dec. 22, 2006. During his testimony in the civil trial in November, he said he was arguing with his wife and that she pushed him and he fell down. After the push, he claimed that he grabbed an exercise bar and beat her to death with it.
Mongeluzzi said at the trial he believed Rafael Robb dressed in a paint suit, beat Ellen Gregory Robb to death with a crowbar and then disposed of the suit and the crowbar in a trash can in Philadelphia.
After 5½ hours of deliberation, the jury awarded $124.26 million to the estate of Ellen Gregory Robb which would go to their daughter, Olivia Robb.