Monday, November 23, 2009

Asbury Park City pays $35,000 to man who claims he was falsely arrested

On October 15, 2009, David Jules of Neptune, New Jersey, accepted $35,000 as full settlement of his false arrest and malicious prosecution claim against the City of Asbury Park (Monmouth County) and two members of its police department.

Jules' civil lawsuit, filed April 8, 2007, arose out an April 2005 incident that occurred while Jules was employed by Tactical Security Operations (TSO), a private security firm. According to the lawsuit, Jules, who is African-American, was patrolling a construction site at about 10 p.m. on April 8th when an individual named Douglas Eschner allegedly informed him that he reported Jules to the police for driving down the street with his vehicle's yellow light activated. Later that same evening, Jules alleges, he was told by Asbury Police Officer Brian Townsend that Eschner complained that Jules had harassed him.

Jules alleged that in the early morning hours of April 11th, while on patrol for TSO, he was stopped by Townsend and Sergeant David DeSane and arrested for a drug possession offense. He reportedly was held for "more than two hours and released without bail." Jules alleges that during the stop of his vehicle, "his personal property, including binoculars, a video monitor and surveillance camera used in performance of his job were all destroyed," and that the arrest stigmatized him and jeopardized his career choices.

According to the complaint, the drug charges were all dismissed "on motion of the prosecutor." Jules alleged that Townsend and DeSane knew at the time of the arrest that Jules was not in possession of any drugs, and that the arrest was done maliciously and "in retaliation for his encounter with Eschner.

The case is captioned Jules v. Asbury Park et al, Case No. 06-cv-509 . Jules' lawyer was Stephen M. Latimer of Hackensack. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a provision requiring both Jules and the City from disclosing the terms of the settlement. Fortunately, however, such "confidentiality clauses" do not trump the public's right to know under the Open Public Records Act.

None of Jules's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $35,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the City of any of the police officers. All that is known for sure is that Asbury Park and its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Jules and his lawyer $35,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Asbury 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 Asbury 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.