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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    Fired Old Saybrook cop accused of 'gaming' for a date seeks probation to dismiss charge

    Middletown — Fired Old Saybrook police officer Joshua Zarbo accused of using the department's computer system to get a date is seeking accelerated rehabilitation to dismiss his criminal case, according to his attorney.

    Zarbo was terminated from his position as an Old Saybrook police officer in February, weeks after he was charged by his own department with third-degree computer crime.

    He pleaded not guilty to the charge in December. During an appearance Tuesday in state Superior Court in Middletown, Zarbo applied for accelerated rehabilitation, which would dismiss the charge if he successfully completes the probation program, his attorney Richard Lynch said.

    "My client wants to put this behind him and accelerated rehabilitation is the quickest and safest way to move on with a dismissal of the charges against him," Lynch said after his client briefly appeared before Judge Julia Dewey.

    Lynch said he was confident Zarbo would successfully complete the program to gain a dismissal of the charge. He is scheduled to appear again in court on April 25.

    A six-year veteran of the department, Zarbo is accused of misusing his access to the statewide police information system to track down the identity of a woman he encountered while monitoring shoppers on Black Friday, according to a warrant for his arrest.

    The 30-year-old Clinton resident called an emergency dispatcher to check the woman's license plate to obtain her name and personal information, according to a warrant for his arrest. The dispatcher told Zarbo that he would have to request the information over the radio, the warrant said.

    Zarbo then told the dispatcher he was "gaming" for a date when he requested the license plate information, according to the warrant.

    Investigators construed Zarbo's response to mean he was seeking to contact the woman for a date, which would be an improper use of the system, the warrant said.

    The dispatcher and Zarbo exchanged quips and crying with laughter smiley face emojis by text before the officer asked over the radio for the woman's license plate to be checked, the warrant said.

    But the radio communication unraveled the date-seeking plot when the fire chief's wife heard the request and recognized the woman's name, according to the warrant.

    The targeted woman was surprised when she was notified by the fire chief that police had checked her license plate information, the warrant stated.

    The woman sent the fire chief a photo of an Instagram account believed to belong to Zarbo, who began following her on the social media platform after her license plate was checked, the warrant stated.

    Zarbo later told investigators that he checked her license plate because she and her sister were "behaving suspiciously" in the parking lot of the Walmart where he and another officer were monitoring holiday shoppers. Zarbo also said he felt he was not violating any rules by looking up the woman on social media since he had completed his police function, the warrant said.

    If Zarbo is granted the program during his next court date, his case would be sealed unless he fails to complete the program. Accelerated rehabilitation is reserved for first-time offenders who are not facing serious charges and are likely not to enter the court system again.

    Zarbo is among a handful of officers throughout the state who have been charged with misusing the law enforcement system that provides police access to the identities, addresses and other information on suspects or potential suspects.

    Connecticut State Police Trooper Mitchell Paz was charged this month with third-degree computer crime after he looked up information about an investigation for a woman he was dating, arrest warrants said.

    Staff writer Meghan Friedmann contributed to this story.

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