U.S. Rep. Allen West's press secretary is being accused of illegally recording someone - again.
Former WPTV-Channel 5 reporter Angela Sachitano, one of three directors on West's 15-member congressional staff, is named as defendant in a lawsuit brought by a former vice president at the Boca-based Sunbeam Corp. The suit also names the television station and an ex-girlfriend.
Alex DiMusto, 43, claims in his filing that ex-squeeze
Deborah Riley, a secretary he dated for two months in 2009, engaged in a campaign to harm his businesses, including rental apartment complexes, after their breakup.
And Sachitano used Riley as a source for a February sweeps news segment accusing DiMusto of cyber-stalking Riley.
In the punitive damages action brought last month in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, Dimusto claims Sachitano and the NBC affiliate violated the federal security in communications act by tape-recording her conversation with DiMusto without his permission. DiMusto also alleges Sachitano "intercepted, disclosed or used" DiMusto's private telephone conversations with Riley without seeking his permission, the lawsuit reads.
The station broadcast DiMusto's voice on the air and online in February 2010. The lawsuit also claims defamation and invasion of privacy, among six counts that also includes tortious interference and invasion of privacy.
"I'm not worried," Sachitano said. The story was supposed to become a series about cyber-stalking, she said, but the relationship between DiMusto and Riley was so poisoned that the station dropped the idea.
"That guy [DiMusto] is playing the system. He's just trying to make some money. He knows very well he wasn't taped secretly. We tested the mike right in front of him. He and his lawyer must have read the past story about my thing with the cops."
This is the second time that Sachitano's name pops up in allegations of illegal recordings. Sachitano reportedly quit her TV job in November after West Palm Beach city officials accused her of wiring up an aggrieved mother and taping her conversation inside police headquarters with detectives looking for her missing son. The cops believed they were having a private conversation with the woman but then unexpectedly heard excerpts of it on the tube that night.
Sachitano's three-year history at Channel 5 also included a suspension for her not disclosing to her managers that she acted as a TV consultant to West while covering his campaign in early 2010.
When the controversial Tea Party-sanctioned, ex-U.S. Army Lt. Col. West beat incumbent Ron Klein, he hired Sachitano as communications director. She is his liaison with the media nationally and in South Florida.
DiMusto's attorney, Andrew Teschner, has requested mounts of potentially embarrassing documents from Sachitano and the station. He asked for all of Sachitano's reporting on the Klein-West campaign and any communication with law enforcement entities regarding Sachitano's recording of police officers.
Channel 5 officials, who don't comment on pending litigation, wiped Sachitano's story on DiMusto from its website, but this link remains active. Here's an excerpt:
"Florida resident Deborah Riley hasn't been able to find a job in months. Google her name and she understands why.
Log on to deborahkayriley.com and a website dedicated completely to trashing her reputation appears.
Comments like 'she is on cocaine and crystal meth' and 'sleeps with anyone on the first date.'
This is only a small part of what Riley's ex boyfriend, Alex DiMusto, is accused of writing on the site. "I feel violated and hopeless," Riley said. "It seems like there is nothing in place to protect the victim."
We got in touch with Dimusto over the phone today. When asked if he created the site, Dimusto answered, "I did not but I might know someone who did."
According to county records, there's little doubt that something went wrong when Riley and DiMusto dated. Between the two of them, they've filed for domestic violence injunctions a total four times in four months in 2010. Records show all requests were denied, mostly for insufficient evidence.
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In his lawsuit, DiMusto says Sachitano and Channel 5 allowed Riley to spread what he calls lies about him: That he physically assaulted Riley; that he is a convicted con man; that he's wanted by police; and that he threatened Riley to "put her in a dark place where nobody would find her."
Although no records show DiMusto was convicted in criminal cases in Palm Beach County, he claims Sachitano's story caused his businesses to suffer. He claims the story took a physical toll on him as well and cites a litany of ailments, including anxiety, depression, ulcers, hair and weight and sleep loss, and the fear to leave his home for two months.
"That guy is crazy," Sachitano said.