On September 29, 2008, Bogota Borough in Bergen County and/or its insurer paid $115,000 to three men who claimed the Bogota police assaulted them after a May 2005 bar fight that involved an off-duty officer.
The settlement agreement, which contains a confidentiality clause, is on-line here and the lawsuit is described in a May 15, 2007 newspaper article that is posted below.
None of the allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The entry of settlement agreement does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Borough or any its officers. All that is known for sure is that Bogota, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay the men $115,000 than take the matters to trial. Perhaps Bogota's 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 Bogota 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.
ABOUT ME AND WHY I'M POSTING THIS.
I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project which seeks to increase governmental transparency and accountability, particularly at a local level. As part of my work, I routinely check civil court cases where at least one of the parties is a government agency or official. Sometimes I run across settlements that may be of interest to citizens and taxpayers. For more information on the Libertarian Party, click here.
Somerset, New Jersey
Bogota police sued over brawl at bar 3 men say drunken off-duty cop started fight
Record, The (Hackensack, NJ) - Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Author: PETER J. SAMPSON, STAFF WRITER
Three men arrested in a barroom brawl are suing Bogota , its Police Department and four officers in federal court for $1 million, claiming they were victims of an assault and coverup.
The men claim Officer Daniel Creange was intoxicated when he picked the May 2005 fight after assuming that one of them had bumped into him while he was off duty at the 101 Pub on Queen Anne Road.
Several other officers joined in, leaving David Connolly of Ridgefield Park and brothers Mark and Matthew Rios of Hackensack with "serious, permanent and disfiguring injuries," alleges the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Newark.
Borough Attorney Joseph Monaghan declined to comment on the suit.
Creange, an 11-year veteran, has denied instigating the brawl. He is appealing an eight-week suspension without pay for threatening one of the men, contending the hearing panel was biased and its punishment overly harsh.
Connolly and Mark Rios were taken into custody and charged with simple assault following the melee — a move the plaintiffs allege was designed to cover up abuses by Creange.
Although he was obviously intoxicated and agitated, the suit says, Officers Craig Lynch and Jerome Fowler and Detective Robert Piterski allowed Creange into the restricted lockup area, where he threatened to kill or otherwise harm Connolly.
The suit contends the charges against the men were dismissed in open court in December 2005 after an internal affairs probe. However, the plaintiffs claim Creange demanded that the criminal complaints be reinstated and that these could be dismissed only if they stipulated that probable cause existed for the charges.
This, the men allege, was designed to protect Creange from being sued.
A borough court official said Monday that the charges weren't dropped and that the case was being moved to a different venue.
The federal suit claims borough officials knew or should have known that Creange and the other officers involved in the brawl were prone to excessive force and assault. It accuses the borough of failing to require proper training and supervision to protect the civil rights of citizens.
Last year, after Connolly and the Rios brothers filed a notice of intent to sue, Creange's lawyer said they were drunk and had assaulted the officer, who was on crutches because of an ankle injury and suffered a gash across his chest and a cut on his head. She said there was no evidence that Creange was drunk.
Staff Writer Brian Aberback contributed to this article.