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Manhasset man says false 'Flush the Johns' arrest ruined his life

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice and Nassau Police

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice and Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Dale announce the results of "Operation Flush the Johns" in Mineola, June 3, 2013. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A false arrest for patronizing a prostitute wrecked the life of a Manhasset restaurateur whose wife divorced him after publicity about the "Flush the Johns" sting that netted 104 men in Nassau County two years ago, a lawsuit charges.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in state Supreme Court in Nassau, seeks unspecified monetary damages for the man, Louis DiMaria, 40, on grounds of false arrest, false imprisonment and other improprieties.

Prosecutors dropped the charge against DiMaria eight months after his arrest.

The lawsuit said DiMaria was with a friend on April 18, 2013, when the friend said he had to stop at a Carle Place hotel to meet someone. DiMaria went into the hotel room bathroom, but as soon as he emerged, he was arrested by detectives using the room for the sting, the lawsuit said.

Police then signed affidavits saying DiMaria had responded to a Web advertisement featuring a scantily clad woman, and had called the telephone number in the ad -- actually a phone being used by a female undercover police officer, the lawsuit said. He did none of that, the lawsuit said.

The police department and the county attorney's office declined to comment Friday.

DiMaria's wife "left him and subsequently divorced him due to the false allegations that he patronized a prostitute," the lawsuit says.

"The false allegations against plaintiff caused his business . . . to lose customers, resulting in severe losses to the business," the court papers say.

The arrests were made in April and May 2013, but they first came to public attention in June 2013 when the district attorney at the time, Kathleen Rice, held a news conference about them, and dubbed the sting "Flush the Johns."

The police commissioner at the time, Thomas Dale, took part in the news conference.

"The purpose of publicizing the names and photographs of the arrestees was to humiliate them and destroy their public reputation, regardless of their guilt or innocence," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit is against the county and several of the police officers and detectives who took part in the sting. The district attorney's office was not named as a defendant because "the DA has certain immunity from prosecution," DiMaria's attorney, Salvatore Marinello of Garden City, said.

DiMaria could not be reached, and Marinello said his client did not want to comment.

The man he was with, who was also arrested that night, Michael Milia of Garden City, later pleaded guilty to patronizing a prostitute, records show.

The lawsuit says DiMaria was unaware that Milia might be responding to a sexually explicit ad.

"At the time of the arrest, there was no evidence that, other than plaintiff's (DiMaria) mere presence at the scene, that plaintiff intended to patronize a prostitute," the lawsuit says.

In a speech at Touro Law Center last October, before she was elected to Congress, Rice said that "public awareness is what our joint sting was all about."

She said the publicity deterred other men from patronizing prostitutes, and that most of the 104 men pleaded guilty to some charge. She acknowledged that only one of the men who contested the charges and went to trial was convicted. Six men who went to trial were acquitted by a judge at nonjury trials.

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