Judge dismisses criminal case against Montville firefighter
A Superior Court judge has dismissed criminal charges against a volunteer firefighter charged by Montville police with posting photos of a car accident on social media.
Steve Frischling, the public information officer at the Chesterfield Fire Company, had faced two counts of “unauthorized taking or transmission by first responders of images of crime or accident victims.” The charges are misdemeanors, punishable by up to a year in prison with a conviction.
The charges are associated with a law passed in 2011 known as Joshua’s Law that bars first responders from photographing or disseminating photos of victims at accident or crime scenes. The law was passed in 2011 and championed locally in response to a 2009 incident in New London in which Officer Jeffrey Nichols shared a photo of 21-year-old Joshua Rogers of Waterford after he had died of a heroin overdose.
Frischling’s March 9, 2021 arrest was associated with a photo of a car accident Frischling posted on his department’s Facebook page with an accident summary on Feb. 7, 2021. Frischling had argued that not only is the face of the victim blurred in the photo but state law specifically allows him to take such photos.
First responders are not allowed to take photos at accident scenes “other than in the performance of his or her duties,” the law states. Frischling said he while he regularly takes photos, he takes care when posting those photos not to identify the victims or violate medical privacy laws.
The investigating officer in the case was Montville Police Lt. David Radford, records show.
Frischling’s lawyer, Mario Cerame, said in a statement that the photos posted by the department enhance governmental transparency and “lets the public know that the Fire Department is the authoritative source for what’s going on in an emergency in the community.”
“This case should never have been brought. This two-year fight was an epic waste of taxpayer dollars and Court resources,” Cerame said in the statement.
Frischling, who said he was served with a warrant and arrested in front of his family at his East Lyme home, said he is exploring his options when it comes to filing a lawsuit.
Court records show Judge Arthur C. Hadden granted a dismissal in Norwich Superior Court on March 23.