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Lawyer challenges Bergen prosecutor’s use of imaginary victim in filing child sex charges

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT : It’s a rare gambit that will likely attract lots of attention — because it strikes at the tactics investigators use to hunt child predators: The lawyer for a man charged with driving up from Long Beach Island for what he thought would be a sexual tryst with a 6-year-old says the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office has no case against his client because the supposed “victim” never existed.

Domanski, left, and Molinelli

This is “yet another example of the State and Bergen County prosecutors overcharging a defendant just to make sure that something sticks,” said Steven E. Savage, lead counsel for accused Ship Bottom resident Walter Domanski Jr.

It’s highly unusual for an attorney to go on the offensive in such a fiercely public style. But Savage told CLIFFVIEW PILOT early Monday evening: “I would urge everyone to reserve judgment until you have heard the entire story.”

Domanski, 51, is a professional ocean lifeguard, Coast Guard Auxiliary officer, and national director of the Exercise Tiger National Foundation, which looks to recognize American military who participated in Exercise Tiger in April 1944, a full-scale rehearsal for the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

Investigators from Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli’s Computer Crimes Unit arrested Domanski and a Brick Township man, 28-year-old Seth Dixon, following an investigation by what Savage dubbed “members of a loosely organized task force comprised of several otherwise disconnected police agencies.”

“The ‘child’ involved in these allegations is a hypothetical one,” Savage told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “In other words, no such child, victim or otherwise, exists — so, no such attempted victimization was possible.

“There was not even so much as an allegation of an actual physical attempt of anything by Mr. Domanski beyond, perhaps, driving his car in a general direction,” the Newark lawyer added. “He’s permitted to do that as a licensed driver in the State of New Jersey.”

If convicted at trial, Domanski could be sentenced to prison for up to 10 years and fined $150,000 for each of two counts.

Savage claims Molinelli’s detectives “overcharged” his client “because the statutory law has failed to keep up with the Internet and the age of modern technology.

“There are no statutes that really address the ‘virtual’ activities which the Bergen County Prosecutor alleges my client did,” Savage said. “The law is so deficient in this regard that the State has to use grossly inflammatory language that basically implies that the police caught Walter in flagrante with an actual child—and just in the nick of time.

“This deception makes the State’s job easier, but it certainly puts the general public at a big disadvantage.”

Savage even went so far as to raise the spectre of entrapment “and maybe even the constitutional rights of speech and association, among other issues.”

An Internet crime investigator contacted Dixon, who is single, after finding him distributing child pornography online, Molinelli said. He, in turn, introduced the agent to Domanski and arrangements were made, the prosecutor said.

Several local departments loaned officers to his Computer Crimes Task Force to help with the investigation and arrests, Molinelli said:

Lyndhurst Police Department
Montvale Police Department
Ramsey Police Department
River Vale Police Department
Saddle River
Police Department

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