Former county task force director sued over website
Peters Township attorney David DiCarlo is suing the former head of the Washington County Drug Task Force and 10 other unidentified men, claiming he was irreparably harmed by false information they put on a website when DiCarlo was a candidate for district attorney.
In 2011, DiCarlo, a Democract, faced off against Republican Eugene Vittone. Vittone won the election by just 112 votes.
In a lawsuit filed Nov. 19 in Washington County Court, DiCarlo claims Ronald Levi led the coordination of the website “votenodicarlo.com.” The 10 “John Does” allegedly were co-creators of the website.
The website was created on Oct. 7, 2011, and hosted by iPage Inc. of Massachusetts. It was registered under a fictitious address in Afghanistan and to a fictitious person named Missy Thompson, according to the civil complaint.
In the lawsuit, DiCarlo’s attorney, Matthew L. Kruzweg, contends the website contained false information regarding DiCarlo while it featured discriminatory photos of the attorney, including one of DiCarlo’s face with an “X” and “Vote No! DiCarlo” over it.
Beneath the photo was written, “I WILL IGNORE POLICE CORRUPTION.”
On the home page and on a page entitled “Career History,” the website claimed DiCarlo did not participate in any jury trials during the two years he served as an assistant district attorney and indicated that DiCarlo represented only a limited number of people as a private criminal defense attorney.
DiCarlo contends as ADA he handled more than 29 jury trials and as a private criminal defense attorney has represented hundreds of people in the county while being counsel in approximately 45 jury trials.
Also, the website falsely claimed DiCarlo advocated for police corruption and that he promised to ignore wrongdoing by law enforcement, specifically making a reference to former Monongahela police Officer George Langan, who was arrested and later pleaded guilty to the sale of narcotics.
“Defendants had no factual basis on which to rely in publishing these materials,” the lawsuit reads. “Because this content was false, was published with actual malice and caused harm to DiCarlo, the content was defamatory.”
Meanwhile, the lawsuit claims that during the election campaign, Levi and others promoted the existence of the website on fliers that they handed out and posted in public view. The fliers also contained false information about DiCarlo.
Subsequently, DiCarlo contends the defamatory content posted on the website and fliers was done with malice and intent and had a direct impact on the election.
He also claims the defendants’ action has severely damaged his reputation and private law business, while causing him to suffer emotional and mental distress and anguish, loss of sleep and fatigue and severe humiliation.
He is asking the court to order that the website be removed from the Internet and all search engines, and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
Both Kurzweg and DiCarlo refused to comment on the lawsuit.
Levi was hired as head of the drug task force by former District Attorney Steven Toprani. He resigned from the post shortly after Vittone took office.
Levi’s attorney, Dennis Popojas, said he hasn’t yet reviewed the civil complaint but believes that anything posted on the Internet is protected under the First Amendment.
The website is no longer available on the Internet.