A University of Wisconsin Police Department captain has been charged with disorderly conduct for disturbing a woman he did not know by using a law enforcement database to track her down and leave a Valentine's Day card on her car.
According to Madison Police Department records, Johnnie Diamante admitted to detectives that he used a Wisconsin Department of Justice information database to look up the woman's license plate number after an encounter at the Aldi grocery store on Lien Road. Diamante told detectives he was off-duty when he was at the grocery store and when he searched the database.
The database is reserved for those authorized by criminal justice agencies and for matters of law enforcement only.
In an interview Thursday, UW-Madison Police Chief Susan Riseling said Diamante, a member of the campus police force since 1997, informed her on "the day of the incident" that he had been questioned by police. She said he began a two-day suspension without pay Thursday and will return to work on Saturday.
"He's an extraordinary man," says Riseling. "He's an exceptional human being. He made a mistake and he regrets it. We were stunned by this. He's absolutely a man of incredible character."
Diamante did not return phone calls and emails. But he told investigators he thought the women he saw at the grocery store wanted to talk to him so he wrote the letter to give her another chance.
"I'll admit, it was a stupid thing to get her a card; shouldn't have done it; I won't ever contact her again, but I understand why she's upset; I got no issue with that," Diamante told detectives. "I just thought maybe she wanted to talk to me and I kind of didn't give her that opportunity."
According to the woman, who spoke to Isthmus but asked that her name not be used, and police records, she and Diamante made eye contact at some point while both were shopping at Aldi on Feb. 11. The woman, a property manager at the time, says she thought Diamante might have been a tenant of hers. She said hello, but did not get a reply.
Security camera footage captured the two exiting the store for the parking lot less than a minute apart, the record said. The following morning, the woman found a red envelope on the windshield of her car that was parked outside her house. Her name and address were written on it.
"So sorry about yesterday, if you would like to talk or be friends meet me at Aldi's again today at 4:20 p.m.," Diamante wrote on the card. "Happy Valentine's Day, John."
Diamante told detectives that after finding the woman's name in the DOJ database he located her address through the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access, a public resource.
Police records show that detectives obtained a list of the user IDs that were used to search the DOJ database for the woman's name. Detectives believed queries dated Feb. 11 came from Diamante.
The woman told Isthmus she immediately had a "panic attack" when reading the note and called police when she got to work. That afternoon, police escorted her to the meeting place proposed by Diamante and confronted him about what they believed might be a stalking situation.
Diamante cooperated with police during the meeting, according to the records. He identified himself as a UW police officer, demonstrated he was unarmed and insisted he had meant no harm. After Diamante recounted his version of the events, the records said, officers did not serve Diamante a stalking letter -- a formal warning to cease and desist -- because it appeared to be an "isolated incident."
Both Diamante and the woman said they had never seen each other prior to Feb. 11.
According to the police records, Diamante initially told officers he obtained the woman's name by seeing it written on her debit card while both were waiting to pay at the cash register. But during follow-up questioning with detectives, he confessed that he ran the license plate in the law enforcement database.
The woman said the incident frightened her so much she "dramatically" pushed up plans she had to move out of state. She says she does not have "any reassurance" that Diamante might not try to contact her again.
The disorderly conduct charge carries a fine of up to $500.
Dana Brueck, spokesperson for the Department of Justice, said her agency would not do an independent investigation for a misuse of the database, dubbed the TIME system. But it could ask the officer's agency to conduct an internal investigation and report back.
Any disciplinary action, adds Brueck, "would come from the agency at which the officer is employed, and that would be according to the agency's policy regarding use of the database." If the officer's agency determined a criminal investigation was needed, "it could ask another agency to do such an investigation and that agency could potentially refer charges to the local DA."
Brueck adds: "It should be noted that law enforcement takes alleged misuse of the TIME system very seriously."