Friday, October 30, 2009

Seaside Park pays $225,000 to police abuse claimant

On September 16, 2009, Alexander Casey, who receives mail at a post office box in New Vernon, New Jersey, accepted $225,000 as full settlement of his excessive force claim against the Borough of Seaside Park (Ocean County) and several members of its police department.

Casey's civil lawsuit, filed in June 2007, arose out his encounter with Seaside Police Officers Christopher Bonner, Jillian Dworzanski, Michael Garvey, Matthew Brady, Christopher R. Graham, Joseph M. Luna, Ryan Jenkins and Rafiq Abdul-Ghafur during the early morning hours of June 10, 2005. 

Casey alleges that walked from the Terrace Motel to the beach across the street via the sand dunes and was approached by officers while lying on the beach.  He claims that Officer Abdul-Ghafur told him that he was under arrest and that he offered no resistance to the arrest. 

During his arrest, Casey claimed that the six officers verbally and physically abused him by punching and kicking him in the face and head, spraying him with OC spray, hitting him in the head with police batons, kicking sand in his eyes and rubbing his injured face in the sand and handcuffing him so tightly as to cause injury. 

Casey further alleged that after he arrived at the Seaside Park Police Headquarters, the six officers continued to spray him in face with OC spray while he was handcuffed in his cell and denied him medical treatment for his injuries. He claims that his injuries were so severe that the Ocean County Jail refused to admit him and required him to be transported to Community Medical Center for medical treatment.

The case is captioned Casey v. Borough of Seaside Park, Case No. 3:07-cv-02704-JAP-DEA . Casey's lawyer was Michael J. Fioretti of Bridgeton.. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Casey's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $225,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Borough of any of the police officers. All that is known for sure is that Seaside Park, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Casey and his lawyer $225,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Seaside Park'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 Seaside Park 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.