Connecticut PIO Sues Police for False Arrest and Malicious Prosecution

The Connecticut PIO who has charged with violating Joshua’s Law on photo-taking by first responders, has filed suit against a police lieutenant, a Connecticut State Trooper and the Town of Montville alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil rights violation actionable through 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Steven Frischling filed suit yesterday in US District Court for the District of Connecticut. The suit names Montville Police Lieutenant David Radford II, Connecticut State Police Sergeant Albert Gosselin III, and the Town of Montville as defendants. We have been following this case since Frischling was charged with violating Joshua’s Law in 2021.

Joshua’s Law was enacted in 2011 following the taking and sharing of a photo of a juvenile overdose victim by a New London police officer. The law limits the ability of police, fire and EMS personnel to take and share photos of patients at emergency scenes. The statute specifically exempts those who take or share images “in the performance of his or her duties.”

The charges against Frischling were dismissed last year after the trial judge repeatedly postponed a trial on the merits. It was not until Frischling’s attorney insisted on the trial that the case was dismissed. In the mean time, Frischling and his family went through the proverbial wringer.

Quoting from the complaint:

  • Frischling, the Public Information Officer for the Chesterfield Fire Company, a volunteer fire department in Montville, Connecticut, was wrongfully arrested and prosecuted for performing his duties as PIO at the behest of the Defendant, David Radford II, then a Lieutenant with the Montville Police Department, under a state penal statute that plainly excepts from its provisions those whom, like Frischling, were engaged “in the performance of his or her duties.”
  • Radford knew Frischling was acting in performance of his duties, yet chose to improperly orchestrate Frischling’s arrest and prosecution out of disdain for and dislike of Frischling.
  • After more than two years, the unfounded and malicious prosecution against Frischling terminated when the charges were dismissed by a Connecticut Superior Court judge.
  • Frischling now seeks redress for the injuries and damages that he sustained due to the egregious misconduct to which he was subjected.
  • On February 7, 2021, a motor vehicle accident occurred at the intersection of Connecticut State Route 85 and Grassy Hill Road in Montville, Connecticut
  • Frischling… responded to the scene of the Accident.
  • Frischling wore a high-visibility jacket with the words “Chesterfield Fire Company P.I.O.” across the back and an identification badge bearing his name, his organization “Chesterfield Fire Company,” and his title “Public Info Officer” issued by the Town of Montville.
  • While present at the Accident, Frischling [took] four photographs of the Accident scene.
  • Later that day, Frischling posted the four Accident scene photographs, two of which were digitally altered to obscure a vehicle’s license plate and the head of a first responder present at the scene, respectively, along with [a] statement on the Chesterfield Fire Company Public Information Officer’s Facebook page.
  • On that same day, an unknown person brought the Facebook Post to Radford’s attention.
  • Radford had an improper agenda and/or personally disliked Frischling. For one or both of those reasons, he used the Facebook Post as a pretext for commencing an unfounded criminal investigation against Frischling.
  • Radford commenced such investigation on his own initiative and for no other purpose than to vex and trouble Frischling in furtherance of a personal vendetta.
  • Radford previously had expressed disdain for Frischling’s objectively innocuous and lawful activities as Chesterfield Fire Company PIO.
  • In November 2020, Radford… complain[ed to the town’s public safety commission about]… a Facebook post made by Frischling…. [that] depicted the Montville Police Department logo on a police patrol vehicle and a canine wearing a police hat.
  • Radford knew full well that Frischling was the Chesterfield Fire Company PIO and was performing and in the course of his duties on February 7, 2021.
  • As of the date that he signed the Warrant Application under oath, Radford had been a police officer for over twenty years. Yet Radford knowingly and intentionally, and/or with reckless disregard for the truth, made numerous false statements in the Warrant Application and/or omitted material information from the same.
  • Radford omitted any reference to the existence and substance of the Chesterfield Fire Company PIO’s written duties and responsibilities, as duly enumerated by the Chesterfield Fire Company, and that such duties and responsibilities included taking photographs of incident scenes and releasing them to the public.
  • Radford falsely characterized Frischling as one who merely identifies himself as the Chesterfield Fire Company PIO, as opposed to stating that Frischling was, in fact, the Chesterfield Fire Company PIO to improperly suggest that the PIO position is neither authorized nor legitimate, or that Frischling was not, in fact, the Chesterfield Fire Company PIO.
  • Radford omitted the four photographs from the Warrant Application and falsely characterized certain of the photographs in a manner suggesting that they were of “a person,” as contemplated by [Joshua’s law] to whom medical or other assistance was being provided when they were not.
  • Radford falsely stated that the photographs included occupants of vehicles at the Accident scene when they did not, and Radford knew such statement to be false at the time of its making.
  • Radford falsely stated that one photograph depicted a victim still in the car when it does not, and Radford knew such statement to be false at the time of its making.
  • Radford falsely stated that one photograph depicted an individual being strapped onto a stretcher when it does not, and Radford knew such statement to be false at the time of its making.
  • Gosselin knew or should have known that the foregoing statements in the Warrant Application were false, misleading, or both, and he knew or should have known of Radford’s various omissions of material fact, yet he approved and signed the Warrant Application. Gosselin previously had several prior interactions with Frischling in his capacity as Chesterfield Fire Company PIO and knew, among other things, that Frischling was the Chesterfield Fire Company PIO.
  • On March 9, 2021, and on the basis of Radford’s false statements, mischaracterizations, distortions, and calculated omissions in the Warrant Application, a Connecticut state court judge issued a warrant for Frischling’s arrest on two counts of violating CONN. GEN. STAT. § 53-341c.
  • Later that day, Frischling was arrested at his home in the presence of his children.
  • The conduct of Radford and Gosselin described above violated Frischling’s clearly established right to be free from false arrest under the Constitution of the United States in that Radford and Gosselin had Frischling arrested without consent and without probable cause, thereby unlawfully depriving Frischling of his liberty.
  • March 10, 2021, the Montville Police Department posted a “Criminal Information Summary” of Frischling’s arrest, which included Frischling’s home address, on its Facebook Page. The Montville Police Department had not previously engaged in such conduct in connection with any arrest, including felony arrests.
  • Radford, Gosselin, and/or both directed and/or authorized such posting to intentionally denigrate, demean, and/or retaliate against Frischling.
  • Thereafter, Frischling was forced to retain counsel to defend himself in the unfounded and malicious prosecution that ensued, the original court date of which was April 21, 2021.
  • Despite the unmasking of Radford’s false and misleading statements in the Warrant Application, Frischling was subjected to prosecution for another two years. The prolonged and unfounded prosecution involved approximately nineteen (19) court dates, no less than twelve (12) of which Frischling was compelled to appear for in-person.
  • Radford and Assistant State’s Attorney Sarah Bowman (“Bowman”), the lead prosecutor on the matter, refused to drop the unfounded criminal charges.
  • Both knew that Frischling was acting in performance of his duties on February 7, 2021, yet Radford and Bowman worked in tandem to continue the malicious prosecution to Frischling’s detriment despite the undisputed absence of any evidence.
  • On March 23, 2023, more than two years after his arrest and only after Frischling insisted on going to trial, a judge of the Connecticut Superior Court dismissed the charges against Frischling.
  • The criminal proceedings, therefore, terminated in favor of Frischling.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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