A trial judge calls it a mistaken identity scenario “worthy of a modern Shakespeare.”
It includes a lawsuit that includes, as a plaintiff, a Brookfield police officer who was investigated in an Internet sex sting involving underage girls and, as the defendant, a man who was actually using the officer’s photos online in an attempt to pick up women.
“It’s pretty stressful to go through something like that knowing you’re innocent but under intense scrutiny by your employer, who in this case are police officers,” said Ansonia solo Keith Murray, who represents the police officer, Joseph Dzamko.
Last year, then 40-year-old Joseph Dossantos, of the Gaylordsville section of New Milford, initiated sexually explicit conversations online in a Yahoo chat room labeled “Connecticut Romance.” Dossantos used the chat room handle “EMT260″ and told the detectives he was 25 years old. Dossantos then sent photos to two detectives pretending to be 14-year-old girls. The photos, however, were of Dzamko.
Murray said that Dossantos’ wife was “friends” with the officer on Facebook. So Dossantos downloaded the officer’s photos from the Facebook page and then passed off the photos as his own. Detectives said Dossantos sent the photos to at least 20 women that he conversed with in the Yahoo chat room.
As luck would have it, when Dossantos sent the photos to detectives posing as a 14-year-old, one of the investigators knew Dzamko. She had attended the police academy with him and worked with him in Brookfield.
Believing that Dzamko may have been the person initiating these conversations online, she passed along the images to her superiors, and the internal affairs division of the Brookfield Police Department began an investigation. The first Dzamko knew about the entire situation was when he received a notice from internal affairs about the probe, according to Murray.
“He was tremendously stressed out by this,” said Murray. “He had to tell his wife and family what was going on.”
The investigation affected his marriage at the time, as the couple was trying to have a baby. That effort was ultimately hold until the outcome of the probe, according to the subsequent civil lawsuit filed by Dzamko and his wife.
Investigators eventually traced the photos from Facebook of Dzamko back to Dossantos. The New Milford man admitted to police that he had been sending out photos of the police officer to women in the chat room.
At the conclusion of the police investigation, Dossantos was arrested and charged with two counts of criminal attempt at impairing the morals of a minor and criminal attempt at enticement of a minor.
Murray said that Dossantos was allowed to enter accelerated rehabilitation — a form of probation — on one of the counts and at the conclusion of that period, the enticement charge will be nolled. There are a number of conditions he must meet to comply with the accelerated rehabilitation, including no computer usage. “This is a guy who has no prior criminal record, is in his 40s, and not likely to do it again, even though what he did was pretty reprehensible,” said Murray.
Jeffrey C. Kestenband, of Glastonbury, represented Dossantos in his criminal case. Kestenband could not be reached for comment.
In the civil lawsuit, filed by both Murray and A. Reynolds Gordon, of Bridgeport’s Gordon and DeNicola, the officer made claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress. Dzamko’s wife filed a claim for loss of consortium. Initially, the lawsuit contained 10 counts, but some have been withdrawn and some were ruled out, following motions to strike, by New Haven Superior Court by Judge Jon Blue.
Gerry Giaimo, of Halloran & Sage, is representing Dossantos in the civil case. Giaimo said Dossantos’ insurance carrier hired him to defend the case and had not yet even met with the defendant. “Now that the pleadings have been straightened out it will go to the discovery phase, depositions and we’ll get a better sense of the claims and allegations of damages,” said Giaimo. “None of that has happened yet to date. It will likely happen over the next three months or so.”
Murray said that although this certainly isn’t the first example of someone posing as someone else on the Internet, this might be the first case of the type to be litigated in Connecticut. “I really couldn’t find anything directly factually analogous to this,” he noted.
Murray said most of the Internet-related claims he’s come across involve complaints of identity theft for the purposes of stealing money and cyberbullying. The most analogous examples to this case, he said, are jilted spouses trashing their exes online, sometimes using phony Facebook profiles.•