EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – An East Providence woman has filed a claim letter with the city demanding $1 million in damages after video of her wearing a towel was aired on a television program that shows local police departments at work.
Lawyers for Desiree Spitaleri filed a claim letter with the city on Nov. 15, claiming emotional distress for “unlawful acts and/or omissions of officers in the City Police Department, including non-consensual filming and broadcasting of Plaintiff’s image, name, voice and private information,” on a July episode of “Live PD.”
The program, which airs on cable network A&E, launched in 2016. The show’s website bills it as “unfettered and unfiltered live access inside a variety of the country’s busiest police forces, both urban and rural, and the communities they patrol on a typical night.”
According to the claim letter, Spitaleri said she had just gotten out of the shower when the doorbell rang at 9:15 p.m. on July 12. Through the peephole, she could see a police officer and opened the door. The officer asked if her son was home, and she said he was at a friend’s house.
“At that moment, Ms. Spitaleri noticed a woman in front of the house, appearing to hide behind her neighbor’s car with a notepad and pen, and asked the officer, ‘who is that,'” the letter states, adding the officer told her the person was “documenting.”
The officer told her they received a 911 call from someone who identified themselves as a child and were calling because they needed help with their homework, according to the letter. Spitaleri said she went into the house to call her son to ask if he or his friends used his phone to call police.
“Despite having moved farther into the house to talk to her son, her conversation was recorded and aired on live television,” the claim letter states. “It was not until she hung up the phone and returned to the door that she realized she was being filmed as the camera had moved out from behind a tree.”
She said she asked the officer, “I know you did not just allow me to stand there in my towel half naked, and be filmed without my knowledge,” to which she claims the officer replied, “I told you they are documenting.”
Spitaleri said she began receiving phone calls from friends and family after they saw her on television, which was aired again later that night.
“As a direct and proximate result of the aforesaid unlawful acts of agents of the city and the failure of the city to properly select, train, discipline and supervise members of its police department, plaintiff suffered an unlawful invasion of privacy, has and will continue to endure pain and suffering, emotional distress, and deprivation of her constitutional and common law rights,” the claim letter states.
Spitaleri’s lawyer, Richard Sinapi, said along with the claim against the city, “a demand has been asserted on the producer and the network and we’re awaiting the response.”
According to records provided by Patricia Resende, a spokesperson for East Providence Mayor Robert DaSilva, the city entered into an agreement with Big Fish Entertainment – which produces the program – on March 21, 2019.
The contract includes an indemnification clause where the producer “agrees to defend, indemnify and hold harmless EPPD from and against any and all third party liabilities, third party claims” in connection with the “development, production, distribution” of the series.
The show pulled out of East Providence one month after the claim letter was filed.
“It was a mutually agreed-upon break between the East Providence Police Department and Live PD,” Resende said in an email. “The option to continue the show is open-ended at this time. It’s something the East Providence Police Department will review sometime in the future.”
She added, “Mayor DaSilva does not have any comment on this claim/demand at this time.”
The show also shadowed the Warwick Police Department in in 2018. The department’s chief, Col. Rick Rathbun, said they did not receive any complaints during that time relating to Live PD.
“Upon my review of records from the Professional Standards Division for 2018 and 2019, I can confirm there are no formal complaints for anyone appearing on the show against their consent,” Rathbun said in an email.
Kerri Tarmey, a spokesperson for A&E said in an email the network “does not comment on pending claims.”
A call and email to Big Fish Entertainment was not returned.