Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Union City pays $50,000 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit

On December 7, 2013, the City of Union City (Hudson County) agreed to pay $50,000 to two local women who sued members of the Union City Police Department for falsely arresting and maliciously prosecuting them.

In their complaint, Carlene Peguero and her mother Ingrid DeCastro claimed that Union City Police Sergeant Mark Julve, accompanied by Detectives Jasen Bellamy, R. Cetinich (presumably Raymond Cetinich) and Ruben Rodriguez came to their home on August 12, 2011 to execute a search warrant against Jean Peguero (who was Carlene's brother and Ingrid's son). The officers allegedly arrested Jean after finding marijuana and a marijuana grinder in his room. 

Even though the officers found no other contraband in the home, they allegedly arrested Carlene and Ingrid.  The women claim that the male officers frisked and searched them even though they had requested a female officer.

The pair claimed that they were handcuffed and taken to the police station.  They said that police threatened to charge them with drug offenses unless Jean admitted to possessing the contraband.  They claim that they were both charged, but that the charges were later dropped after Jean admitted to the drug offenses.

The case is captioned Peguero and DeCastro v. Union City, Federal Case No. 2:12-cv-06045 and Peguero'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 Peguero's or DeCastros's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $50,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Union City or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Union City or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Peguero and DeCastro $50,000 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.

Union City pays $25,000 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit

On September 30, 2013, the City of Union City (Hudson County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a local man who sued members of the Union City Police Department for arresting him on October 2, 2010 without justification and applying excessive force against him. 

In his complaint, Plaintiff Franklin Garcia does not recite the particular manner in which the excessive force was allegedly used.  It only claimed that William Varona and Frank DePinto, Jr. were the Union City officers involved.  Garcia claimed that the charges of Aggravated Assault and Obstruction of justice were dismissed on December 5, 2011. 

Also named in the suit was Union City Police Chief Charles Everett.

The case is captioned Garcia v. Union City, Federal Case No. 2:12-cv-06044 and Garcia'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 Garcia'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 Union City or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Union City or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Garcia $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.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Beachwood pays $75,000 to settle police excessive force suit

On September 22, 2011, the Borough of Beachwood (Ocean County) agreed to pay $75,000 to a local couple who sued members of the Beachwood Police Department for allegedly applying excessive force during a traffic stop.

In their suit, Kevin and Maria Chabot said that on August 26, 2007, their truck was pulled over by Patrolman Glen DeMarco.  DeMarco allegedly pushed and maced Kevin, with some of the mace getting in Marie's eyes.  At that point, Patrolmen Eric Harris and Sean Langan arrived on the scene and arrested Marie. The complaint alleged that Harris applied the handcuffs so tightly that they lacerated Marie's wrists.  The complaint further alleged that Harris and Langan hurt Marie's back when they pushed her into an ambulance.

Also named in the suit were Beachwood Police Chief William J. Cairns, Leetuenant Robert Tapp and Sergeants Kenneth Halucha, Bruce Harris and Jason Froberg.

The case is captioned Chabot v. Beachwood, Federal Case No. 09-cv-02991 and the Chabots' attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of the Cabots' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $75,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Beachwood or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Beachwood or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Cabots $75,000 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.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Lavallette pays $75,000 to settle municipal judge's lawsuit against police

On April 23, 2013, the Borough of Lavallette (Ocean County) agreed to pay $75,000 to a Bridgewater Township Municipal Court judge who claimed that Lavallette police arrested him without probable cause after he declined to take a field balance test.  He also claimed that the arrest put him "in the throes of a full blow panic/anxiety attack" and that the police chief's quotes to the local press forced him to resign his position.

In his suit, Stanley F. Rizzolo, a municipal court judge who "aspired to the bench of the Superior Court of New Jersey," said that shortly before midnight on August 22, 2009, he was stopped by Lavallette Officer Andrew Baldino for slightly weaving in his lane of travel.  He said that after he "flawlessly performed two field sobriety tests" he told Baldino that he might have difficulty performing the balance test because of injuries to his back and ankle. Baldino apparently accepted Rizzolo's explanation and instructed him to wait in his vehicle.  According to the lawsuit, a very angry Officer Charles Russell then arrived on scene, berated Rizzolo and threatened him with arrest unless he did the balance test.  Rizzolo claimed that Sergeant John Andrews then arrived on scene and participated in the "menacing and antagonizing."

Rizzolo claimed that he was then handcuffed and placed in a patrol car and taken to the police station where he was told to take a breathalyzer.  The stress from this allegedly caused him to go into a panic attack, which is a condition he said he suffered from prior to this incident.  The officers, however, "cynically believed [Rizzolo] was feigning illness to avoid taking the breathalyzer" and "openly disparaged" him.  He claimed that Russell gave him oxygen which caused him to lose consciousness and that later, in the hospital, he required physical restraints and chemical sedation due to his "uncontrollable shaking and hyperventilation." While sedated, blood was drawn that allegedly revealed a blood alcohol concentration of .068% which, according to the lawsuit, was "well below the 0.08 level of impermissible intoxication established by [law.]"  Finally, he claimed that Police Chief Colin Grant gave "skewed account of the events" to local newspapers which ultimately "forced him to resign from his municipal judgeship at great professional and financial cost."

The case is captioned Rizzolo v. Lavallette, Federal Case No. 11-cv-01033 and Rizzolo's attorney was Robert F. Varady of Union.  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 Rizzolo's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $75,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Lavallette or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Lavallette or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Rizzolo $75,000 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.

Lakewood pays $40,000 to settle excessive force suit against cop who was later arrested

On September 18, 2013, the Township of Lakewood (Ocean County) entered into a confidential agreement to pay $40,000 to a local man who sued members of the Lakewood Police Department for assaulting him and applying excessive force against him.

In his suit, Edwin A. Alicea said that on January 15, 2012, he was stopped by former Lakewood Police Officer Jeremy Felder who "assaulted him without justification and with excessive force."  He claimed that Felder forcibly removed him from his car, threw him to the ground, assaulted him and sprayed his face with pepper spray "without justification."  According to a March 5, 2014 Star Ledger article (here), Felder was arrested in March 2014 for official misconduct arising out of a separate incident.

A You Tube video of the incident is on-line here.  Unfortunately, most of the interaction between Felder and Alicea is off-camera.  The Police report, criminal complaint against Alicea and Alicea's blood alcohol report are on-line here.

The case is captioned Alicea v. Lakewood, Federal Case No. 33:12-cv-06404 and Alicea'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 Alicea's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $40,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Lakewood or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Lakewood or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Alicea $40,000 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.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Southern Regional pays $325,000 to settle five women's Law Against Discrimination suit.

On October 18, 2006, the Southern Regional Board of Education (Ocean County) agreed to pay $325,000 to five women who claimed that a school district official "notoriously committed, on an ongoing and continuous basis, remarkable, egregious conduct prohibited by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination."  Under the terms of the confidential settlement agreement, each woman received $47,500 while their attorney received $88,500 plus $1,500 in court costs.

In their suit, Carol Cornelius, Carmasita DeSalvo, Jodi Wallis, Merry Niewojna and Stephanie Chadwick, all of whom worked for the school district as administrative personnel, said District Business Administrator James A. Moran had "an apparent prejudice against people of color" because he often referred to his son's Jamaican girlfriend in a racially derogatory manner.  Beyond his alleged racism, the women complained that Moran would "regularly, almost on a daily basis, discuss personal, supposed amorous relationships digressing often into detailed, graphic accounts of [his] purported sexual activity."  The lawsuit, which is at the link below, describes the plaintiffs' allegation in graphic detail.  The suit went on to say that Moran retaliated against the women when they complained about his misconduct.

The lawsuit claimed that in exchange for his 2003 resignation, the school district gave him a $200,000 "golden parachute."  The terms of Moran's separation of employment from the school district are confirmed by Judge Stanley R. Chesler's February 10, 2006 opinion (on line here) in Moran v. Southern Regional, Case No. 05-1062.

The case is captioned Cornelius et al v Moran et al, Federal Case No. 04-cv-3765 and the women's attorney was Michael W. Hoffman of Forked River.  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 women's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $325,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Moran, Southern Regional or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Southern Regional or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the women $325,000 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.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Jackson pays $25,000 to settle claim that police beat husband and forced wife to use "recommended" bail bondsman

On February 19, 2014, the Township of Jackson (Ocean County), according to a confidential agreement, agreed to pay $25,000 to a local man who sued members of the Jackson Police Department for allegedly beating him and forcing his wife to use a bail bond company allegedly having financial connections to a former Jackson police officer.

In his suit, Salvatore Day said that on December 20, 2009 Jackson police responded to his home because he had been in a verbal altercation with a neighbor.  When police were at his door, he claimed that his wife "attempted to close the door momentarily to get [Day's] dogs away from the
doorway."  At that point, he claimed that officers, including Joseph Candido, Michael Cavallo, James Reynolds and/or Gregory Vidalis pushed the door open and "spun [his] body around, pushed him against wall and threw him to the floor, kneed him in his neck, and yanked his arms behind his back."

Day claimed that at headquarters, the officers refused to let him call his brother to borrow bail money.  When Day's wife came to headquarters, Day claimed that she was given a pen by police that was embossed with "a bail bondsman's name and telephone number" and that police told his wife "to call the bail bondsman quickly to make bail on [Day] or he would be sent to the county jail." 

The wife called the bondsman and, according to the complaint, the bondsman "arrived at [Day's] home and pressured her into signing paperwork retaining them" even though Day's brother had enough money to pay the bail without using a bail bond.  Day said that he believed that "a former Jackson Township police officer either owns or is employed by the bail bonds company used by [his] wife under duress."

Also named in the suit were Jackson Police Chief Matthew D. Kunz, Sergeant John Decker and Detective Scott Conover.

The case is captioned Day v. Jackson, Federal Case No. 3:10-cv-0401 and Day'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 Day'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 Jackson or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Jackson or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Day $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.