Former St. Francis police officer accused of tapping into interviews

Arnold John (A.J.) Gennaro wanted to be a sergeant with the St. Francis Police Department, but he's accused of tapping into recordings of the other candidates interviewing for the same job.

Gennaro was fired earlier this year in essence for hacking into a secured network at the St. Francis Police Department where he was sworn to protect and serve. But his attorney insists prosecutors got this case all wrong.

The charges leveled against Gennaro have already ruined his law enforcement career. On Monday, he and his defense team began the long legal fight to clear his name.

"He was doing what he thought was the right thing to do," defense attorney Peter Wold said. "It certainly wasn't done with criminal intent in any way."

Anoka County prosecutors have charged Gennaro with a total of four counts, two felonies for tapping into private data, intercepting the information, and then sharing it with others.

The allegations date back to last summer, when the St. Francis Police Department was conducting interviews for a sergeant position. They were using the police department's administrative conference room outfitted with cameras and microphones -- the proceedings recorded on a secure department network.

Gennaro interviewed first, and it's alleged he "hacked" into the network, illegally downloading the closed-door discussions and information and then sharing it with the mayor and a member of the city council. Prosecutors contend it's a crime, a violation of private data.

"He didn't unlawfully hack into any computer system or otherwise," Wold said. "And that's a fact."

Genarro's attorney Wold sees it as something else entirely. He argues his client came across some potentially illegal practices within the department's hiring process, and was simply sharing his findings with people in authority.

The charges don't specify whether or not Gennaro would have actually benefitted from the recordings that he allegedly shared.

Gennaro is no longer a police officer. In fact, he no longer even lives in Minnesota. He has moved to Phoenix, Arizona and started a career in a new field.