Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Paterson pays $10,000 to settle vaguely worded police abuse case.

On May 28, 2008, the City of Paterson paid $10,000 to a local man who had sued the City and Paterson Police officers John Plelan and Frank Motta in August 2007 for an alleged police "assault" occurring on October 6, 2005.

In his cryptically worded civil lawsuit, Alex Lopez claimed that the officers, along with other unnamed officers, "committed an assault and battery upon" him and "committed acts which constituted false imprisonment." No further details are provided in the lawsuit. Lopez was represented in his lawsuit by Alan Roth, Esq. of Bendit Weinstock, P.C. of West Orange.

The settlement agreement and the lawsuit referred to above are on-line here.

None of Lopez's allegations, whatever they are, have been proven or disproven in court. The entry of settlement agreement does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the City or any its officers. All that is known for sure is that Paterson, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Lopez $10,000 than take the matters to trial. Perhaps Paterson'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, Lopez's claims were true and Paterson 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.

John Paff
Somerset, New Jersey