Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bridgeton pays $19,500 to settle lawsuit by woman who was arrested twice for same offense.

On September 18, 2013, the City of Bridgeton (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $19,500 to a local woman who sued the City's police department and municipal court for failing to note in their computer systems that she had already posted bail, causing her to be arrested and processed twice for the same offense.  The Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office, which was also named in the lawsuit, separately paid $3,000 to the woman.

In her suit, Cynthia Izquierdo said that on June 9, 2010, she was arrested by Bridgeton Police Officer Ronald Broomall.  After posting bail, she alleges that her bail was "never been properly docketed in the computer system" causing Broomall to re-arrest her on August 10, 2010 for the "exact same charges for which she was already arrested and processed."  She claimed that after learning of the mistake, Ronald Cuff of the Cumberland County Prosecutor's Office and Bridgeton Police Lieutenant James Battavio visited her and acknowledged the error.  She claimed that the charges against her were later dismissed.

The case is captioned Izquierdo v. City of Bridgeton, et al, Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-516-12 and Izquierdo's attorney was Arthur J. Murray of Vineland.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Izquierdo's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $19,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Bridgeton or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Bridgeton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Izquierdo $19,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bridgeton pays $530,000 to settle police racial profiling and excessive force suit.

On November 19, 2010, the City of Bridgeton (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $442,500 to a local man who sued members of the Bridgeton Police Department for allegedly beating him and fabricating charges against him. In addition, the city also paid $87,500 to the man's two co-plaintiffs.

In his suit, Thomas Bard, along with co-plaintiff's Donald Thomas and Jay Hall, all of whom are African-American, alleged generally that the Bridgeton Police Department "entered into a conspiracy to deprive minority residents of the City of Bridgeton of their civil rights under a pretext of combating drug trafficking and 'gang activity.'"  According to the lawsuit, Bridgeton Police had a long history of routinely profiling racial minorities and targeting them for motor vehicle stops, arrests without probable cause and physical assaults.  $442,500 was paid to Plaintiff Thomas Bard. and the city's insurer confirmed that co-plaintiffs Donald Thomas and Jay Hall, Jr were paid $7,500 and $80,000 respectively.

Plaintiff Donald Thomas alleged that on Christmas, December 25, 2008, while at a scene where his aunt was fatally shot, was forcibly pushed by Officer John Sloboda, who is white.  Sloboda allegedly raised his baton and told Thomas that "I'm going to f--- you up."  Although the assembled crowd's reaction caused Sloboda to not follow through on this alleged threat, Thomas alleged that while in municipal court a few months later, Sloboda gave him a summons for driving with a suspended license on a previous date.  Thomas alleged that this was harassment.  He also alleged that Sloboda continued to go out of his way to harass him and that another officer, B. McGuigan, told him: "You're the bulls eye, you're the target, the Bridgeton Police Department is going to kill you."

Plaintiff Thomas Bard, who has a mental impairment, claimed that on May 8, 2009 his mother called police because "her son was acting up and she needed assistance to get him back in the house."  Officers J. Crokus and David Sockriter responded but reportedly quickly lost interest in Bard and instead decided to investigate another man named Stephen Jefferies.  According to the complaint, Crokus and Sockriter followed Jefferies as he crossed a street in the middle of the block and threatened to arrest him for jaywalking.

At this point, the complaint alleges, Bard approached and protested the officers' treatment of Jefferies.  This allegedly resulted in Sockriter hitting Bard with his baton and Crokus macing him.  Sockriter's assault was alleged to be so vicious that another officer, named Kirkbride, had to restrain him.  The complaint alleged that still another officer, Deena Bertolini, had to stop Sockriter from staging another confrontation with Bard so that he could punch him in the face in order to provide cover for the injuries Bard suffered in the first encounter.

Meanwhile, Kirkbride reportedly informed Sergeant Donald Long that Sockriter had actually assaulted Bard, but "Long failed to remove Sockriter from the case and allowed him to complete the processing of the false charges against Thomas Bard which ultimately caused Bard to be placed in jail with a high bail and left there until May 14, 2009."

Plaintiff Jay Hall, Jr. claimed that he was walking in his neighborhood at 11 p.m. on November 5, 2009 when Officers Nicholas Scrivani and David Ringer pulled up and "instituted a 'pedestrian stop' for jaywalking."  Three more police units allegedly arrived shortly thereafter carrying officers William S. Deininger, Thomas A. Garofolo, Shane D. Morgan, Wayne Miller, Jr. and Donald J. Young.  One of the officers, after accusing Hall of providing a false name, allegedly "put on leather gloves and began pounding his fist into his hand" while complaining that "things had been boring that night and they were looking for some action."  Hall, fearing that he would be beaten, allegedly ran away.  The officers allegedly chased Hall down and handcuffed him.  The the officers, joined by Officer C. Blackburn, allegedly punched and kicked Hall even though he was handcuffed and offered no resistance. The officers allegedly "then dragged him face down across the ground to a police car and forcefully pushed him into the rear seat."

All three plaintiffs allege that they attempted to file Internal Affairs complaints against the officers involved but that those complaints were not taken seriously.

Also named in the suit were Bridgeton Police Chief Mark W. Ott, the Mayor and Bridgeton City Council and business administrator, Cumberland County Prosecutor Ronald Casella, First Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth A. Pagliughi and Bridgeton Police officials Burl Kimble and John Battavio

The case is captioned Bard v. Bridgeton, Federal Case No. 1:10-ov-03831 and Bard's attorney was F. Michael Daily of Westmont.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, in which Bard promised to "not take any action to affirmatively notify the news media of
the resolution of this matter."  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Bard's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $442,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Bridgeton or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Bridgeton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Bard $442,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Mercer County Community College pays $275,000 to settle ADA lawsuit.

On September 23, 2014, the Mercer County Community College agreed to pay $275,000 to a former assistant professor who alleged that the college deprived her of rights accorded by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The college also agreed to pay the costs of mediation and to give a neutral reference to future employers.

In her suit, Monique S. Simon, who was hired by the college as an Assistant Professor of Communications in July 2006, was known to have Active Epstein Barr Virus prior to her hiring but also fell victim to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in August of 2008.  Despite her illness, Simon claimed to have met or exceeded her performance expectations and took on the additional posts of Department Coordinator and Adjunct Faculty Liaison.  After she found herself to be excessively fatigued, she said that she asked Dean Judith Ehresman if she could, because of her illness, step down from the Coordinator and Liaison posts and work exclusively in her teaching position.

In a later meeting with Ehresman and Human Resources Director Eileen Curristine, Simon alleged that she was told that she was required to continue serving in her Coordinator and Liaison positions.  She said she was given the option of resigning her Assistant Professor position and work exclusively as Coordinator and Liaison.  The colleges unwillingness to accommodate her disability, Simon claimed, caused her to file a union grievance in which she prevailed.

She claimed that as her disease worsened, Curristine said "I don't know what you want us to do about it." Simon alleged that the college administration embarked on a "campaign of relation" against her and that "Dean Ehresman did not recommend Simon's re-appointment for the 2009-2010 school year."

The case is captioned Simon v. Mercer County Community College, Federal Case No. 3:10-cv-0550 and Simon's attorney was Jamison M. Mark of Basking Ridge.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Simon's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $275,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Mercer or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Mercer or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Simon $275,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Lacey secretly pays $10,000 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit.

On July 16, 2014, the Township of Lacey (Ocean County) agreed to pay $10,000 to three brothers who sued members of the Lacey Police Department for allegedly applying excessive force, falsely arresting them and searching their premises without a warrant.

In their suit, Daniel, John and Joseph Samoles said that on May 27, 2010, police were called after Bessie A. Patten "attempted to extort money from Plaintiff Daniel Samoles at gunpoint."  Daniel said that he called police after disarming Patten and that Officers Brian Flynn, Adam Ewart, Gerald Noda, Paul Sullivan, Thomas Bruce, James Veltri and James Wood arrived at the residence.  The officers, with guns drawn, ordered the brothers out of the house and told them to get on their knees and raise their hands.  The men, who claimed that their home security camera recorded the event, said that the officers arrested them and applied excessive force even though the brothers complied with all police commands.  The brothers said that the officers then went into the house without a warrant and searched the family's personal belongings.  They also claimed that $2,000 was stolen.

Also named in the suit were Lacey Police Chief William Nally along with Michael DiBella.

The case is captioned Samoles v. Lacey, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-03066 and Samoles's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of the Samoles brothers' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $10,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Lacey or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Lacey or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Samoles brothers $10,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Seaside Heights secretly pays $25,000 to settle police excessive force suit

On August 4, 2014, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a Voorhees woman who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for allegedly assaulting her and applying excessive force.

In her suit, Nicole A. Lamb said that on August 5, 2012, she and her family were in a parking lot loading thier car after a visit to Seaside Heights.  A woman whose car Lamb apparently scratched confronted her which led to a physical altercation between the two women.  When Officers Erik Hershey and Daniel Bloomquist arrived on scene, they allegedly "assaulted her without justification and with excessive force" and brought her to the police station where she was charged with simple assault and resisting arrest.

Also named in the suit were Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd along with Stephen Korman and James Hans, .

The case is captioned Lamb v. Seaside Heights, Federal Case No. 3:13-ov-04715 and Lamb's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Lamb's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $25,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Seaside Heights or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Seaside Heights or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Lamb $25,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Seaside Heights secretly pays $20,000 to settle police excessive force suit.

On July 10, 2014, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $20,000 to a Sussex County man who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for applying excessive force.

In his suit, Josiah Dominski said that on July 1, 2012, he was standing outside the Bamboo Bar just after closing time trying to call a friend with whom he lost contact while inside the bar.  He said that Officers Zachary Rhein and Justin Heffernan told him to leave.  Dominski alleged that when he tried to explain that he was calling his friend, the two officers assaulted him without justification and applied excessive force upon him.

Also named in the suit were Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd, Stephen Korman and James Hans.

The case is captioned Dominski v. Seaside Heights, Federal Case No. 13-cv-4967 and Dominski's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Dominski's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $20,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Seaside Heights or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Seaside Heights or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Dominski $20,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Tuckerton pays $28,500 to settle police excessive force suit. Gag order imposed.

On September 9, 2014, the Borough of Tuckerton (Ocean County) agreed to pay $28,500 to a local man who sued members of the Tuckerton Police Department for allegedly using excessive force against him during a domestic disturbance call.

In his suit, Michael Quintenz said that on April 8, 2010, Tuckerton Officers Joseph Luna, Justin Cherry, John Sanzari and Brian Olsen responded to his home for a domestic disturbance.  Once there, he claims that the officers "assaulted him without justification and with excessive force."  No further details on the type of force or injuries received is disclosed.

Also named in the suit was Tuckerton Police Chief Michael Caputo.  The settlement agreement provides that if the media asks Quintenz about the suit, "he shall simply state that the matter is resolved and dismissed and that he has no further comment."

The case is captioned Quintenz v. Tuckerton, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-01970 and Quintenz's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Quintenz's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $28,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Tuckerton or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Tuckerton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Quintenz $28,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.