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Victims could net $1.2M in stalking suit against Duluth, county

Jeffrey Dominick Giacomini (St. Louis Co. Jail photo)

DULUTH, Minn. — Six women who worked for local law enforcement likely stand to receive $1.2 million as part of a mediated settlement involving St. Louis County and the city of Duluth.

The settlement arises from the actions of Jeffrey Dominick Giacomini, a former custodian at the Public Safety Building shared by city and county law enforcement. Giacomini, a county employee, pleaded guilty in April to five gross misdemeanor counts of invasion of privacy and two gross misdemeanor charges of stalking, related to women he surreptitiously video recorded and photographed at work and in a locker room at the law enforcement center between 2014 and 2016.

A complaint served on the county and city claims they were negligent in "hiring Giacomini, failing to train, monitor, supervise, discipline or fire Giacomini, being unwilling to timely and adequately address concerns about Giacomini's behavior raised by plaintiffs and others, and failing to discover Giacomini's conduct and permitting it to occur."

The suit singles out former Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay and St. Louis County Facilities Supervisor Matt Seppo for their alleged inaction.

The plaintiffs say they raised concerns about Giacomini's behavior on multiple occasions, but he was not disciplined. In January 2015, however, he was reassigned to the county side of the building after female police department employees expressed discomfort about Giacomini lurking around their locker room.

Giacomini was later found to have hidden a camera in a janitor's cart and under a "Wet Floor" sign to record women in various states of undress.

Giacomini's activities came to light in April 2016 after he was arrested in a Superior Walmart store, where staff observed him following female shoppers and using his phone to take pictures of them while they were bending over. Store security staff confronted Giacomini and warned him to cease his behavior, but he remained on the premises and appeared to again be surreptitiously photographing women.

Walmart called Superior police to the scene, where they arrested him for disorderly conduct, questioned him and confiscated his cellphone. Authorities subsequently obtained a warrant to conduct a forensic examination of the device and discovered photos and videos depicting women at the Public Safety Building.

The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office launched an investigation of its own and questioned Giacomini's supervisor, Seppo.

According to the civil complaint, investigators asked Seppo if Giacomini had a locker or another personal storage space in the building and were told he did not.

The suit alleges that Giacomini's uncle, who is also a county employee, shortly thereafter asked Seppo for the keys to his nephew's locker so he could clean it out. This same uncle, Frank Giacomini, subsequently turned a digital camera over to investigators as evidence, but its memory card was missing.

A search warrant was executed the following day, and investigators recovered 39 videos of women shot in the Public Safety Building on Giacomini's laptop computer.

After entering a guilty plea in April, Giacomini was sentenced to 180 days at the Northeast Regional Corrections Center and eight years of probation. Under the terms of his probation, Giacomini must complete a sex offender program, may not access the internet without court permission and is not to set foot at the Public Safety Building, where he once worked.

In their suit against the city and county, the plaintiffs say they "have suffered and continue to suffer from, including but not limited to, threats to personal safety, severe and permanent emotional distress, physical harm, embarrassment, past and future medical expenses and loss of earning capacity."

Under the terms of a settlement approved by the St. Louis County Board Tuesday, commissioners agreed to pay the plaintiffs $815,000.

On Monday, the Duluth City Council is expected to vote on an additional $385,000 settlement from the city.

If the settlement is approved in full, the county will be left to pick up 68 percent of the tab, and the city will cover the remaining 32 percent of the $1.2 million cost.

Dana Kazel, communications manager for St. Louis County, said: "We are not in a position to discuss a mediated outcome, other than to say employees and others have every right to expect privacy in the personal spaces of our facilities.

"As we've said from the beginning, we are horrified by this individual's actions. We cooperated with the criminal investigation, and now have entered into a civil litigation settlement to help bring closure for these women harmed by this individual," she said.

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