Monday, November 30, 2009

West Deptford Township pays $24,000 to woman who claims police used excessive force

On October 26, 2009, Andrea Damiani of Wenonah, New Jersey, accepted $24,000 as full settlement of her excessive force claim against the Township of West Deptford, the City of Woodbury (both in Gloucester County) and members of their municipal police departments. The entire $24,000 was paid by West Deptford and nothing was paid by Woodbury.

Damiani's civil lawsuit, filed August 14, 2008, arose out an August 12, 2005 traffic stop that occurred while Damiani was travelling south on Route 45 in West Deptford Township. She claims that during the stop, West Deptford Police Corporal Stephen Meduri and Officers Michael S. Franks and Michael Cramer, along with Woodbury Police Officer William Palese, using "grossly excessive, unnecessary force" pulled her out of her vehicle cause "serious injury" to her left wrist as well as emotional distress.

The case is captioned Damiani v. West Deptford et al, Case No. 01:07-cv-02884-JEI-AMD. Damiani's lawyers were Randy P. Catalano and F. Michael Daily, Jr. both of Westmont. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Damiani's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $24,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by either the Township or any of the police officers. All that is known for sure is that West Deptford and its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Damiani and her lawyers $24,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps West Deptford'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 West Deptford 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, November 25, 2009

Paterson pays $4,000 to woman who claims she was falsely arrested

On June 22, 2009, Sau Fong Lam of New York City, accepted $4,000 from the City of Paterson as full settlement of her lawsuit against Passaic County Jail officials, the City of Paterson, Paterson Police Officer Quaema McElveen and other unnamed Paterson officers. According to Timothy J. Cunningham, Esq., Passaic County's Deputy County Administrator, "the County of Passaic did not contribute to any financial settlement with" Ms. Lam.

The incident that gave rise to the suit occurred on August 17, 2008 at a Paterson residence that the New Majestic Restaurant Buffet of Wayne provides as sleeping quarters for its restaurant staff. According to Lam's lawsuit, she shared a bedroom with Li Ni when the two women began arguing. Ni allegedly asked a third woman, named Ping and who was proficient in English, "to call 911 and make a false report that Sau Fong Lam had assaulted her." Ping allegedly placed the call after receiving permission from New Majestic's owner to call 911.

Officer McElveen responded to the call and allegedly arrested and handcuffed Lam without an arrest warrant and despite Ni having no visible injuries to suggest that she had been assaulted. While she was at the police station, Lam claimed an unnamed officer shut a door on her left hand causing her to scream out in pain. She further alleged that the officer did not release her hand from the door until after she apologized for screaming out.

Further, Lam alleges that when she was taken to the emergency room for treatment of her hand, she was given a prescription a pain medication that Paterson officers would not allow her to fill. She claims to have been held in jail overnight and was not allowed access to the prescribed pain medication.

Finally, she claims that the assault charges against her were dismissed on October 9, 2008 for lack of prosecution.

The case is captioned Lam v. Passaic County et al, Case No. 2:08-cv-05598-JAG-MCA. Lam's lawyer was Peter L. Quan of New York, NY. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Lam's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $4,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the City or any of the police officers. All that is known for sure is that Paterson and its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Lam and her lawyer $4,000 than take the matter 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, perhaps the 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.

Freehold Township pays $25,000 to man who claims he was maliciously prosecuted

On November 17, 2009, Michael Rogers of Freehold, New Jersey, accepted $25,000 as full settlement of his false arrest and malicious prosecution claim against the Township of Freehold (Monmouth County) and Michael Denham, who serves as a Freehold Township Police Officer.

Rogers' civil lawsuits, filed March 10, 2008 and February 27, 2009, arose out a July 14, 2005 incident that occurred at Escondido's Restaurant at 402 West Main Street, Freehold. According to the lawsuits, Rogers was lawfully at the restaurant when Denham detained him "without a reasonable justifiable suspicion of any criminal activity." Rogers goes on to claim that Denham arrested him in a "violent manner" without an arrest warrant and "falsely and maliciously charged [him] with resisting arrest and aggravated assault on a police officer." Rogers claims that a jury acquitted him of the charges on February 28, 2007.

On July 14, 2008, United State District Court Judge Mary L. Cooper dismissed Rogers' claims of false arrest and false imprisonment because the suit wasn't filed until after the two-year statute of limitations had expired. The malicious prosecution claim, however, was not barred by the statute of limitations because that claim arose on February 27, 2007, the date of Rogers' acquittal.

The cases are captioned Rogers v. Freehold et al, Case No. 3:08-cv-02080-MLC-LHG and Rogers v. Denham, Case No. 3:09-cv-01936-MLC-DEA. Rogers' lawyer in both cases was Pablo N. Blanco of South Orange. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a provision requiring both Rogers and the Township 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 Rogers's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $25,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Township or any of the police officers. All that is known for sure is that Freehold and its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Rogers and his lawyer $25,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Freehold'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 Freehold 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, 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.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

East Orange paid out a total of $75,000 to settle two intertwined lawsuits

In May 2007, Keith Hinton, then a East Orange Police Sergeant, accepted $50,000 to pay his lawyer, Algeier Woodruff, P.C. of Morristown, for legal services performed on a suit Hinton had filed against the East Orange Police Department and several police officials. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

In August 2007, Angelic (Angel) Muhammad of East Orange, accepted $25,000 to settle her lawsuit against the department and several police officials. Muhammad was also represented by Algeier Woodruff, P.C. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

Both lawsuits are summarized in the following article published in the October 13, 2004 Star Ledger.

Woman accuses police of sex assault - Prosecutor reviewing E. Orange allegations

Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ) - Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Author: Kevin C. Dilworth And Margaret Mchugh, Star-ledger Staff

An East Orange woman has filed a federal civil lawsuit accusing the police chief and seven other officers of sexually assaulting her over the past 20 years.

Angelic (Angel) Muhammad, 36, of North Arlington Avenue, near Summit Street, claims she was forced to perform sexual acts in exchange for not being charged with "phony or false charges."

The assaults, "well known throughout the department," began when Muhammad was 16 and continued until this year, according to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Newark.

Besides Chief Charles Grimes, the officers named in the suit are Lt. Michael Brown, retired Capt. Michael Palardy, Sgt. Gary Kelshaw, just retired Capt. Walter Jetter, officer Steven Sims, officer James Smith and Capt. James O'Toole.

Unspecified sexual acts were performed in East Orange police vehicles, inside police headquarters and inside some of the private homes of police officers, according to the lawsuit.

Muhammad, a former drug abuser who does not have a job, never filed a police report or criminal complaint over the last two decades, said Muhammad's attorney, Robert Woodruff of Morristown.

However, Muhammad's allegations are now being reviewed, Charlotte Smith, an executive first assistant prosecutor with the Essex County Prosecutor's Office in Newark, said yesterday.

"There's an ongoing investigation by our office's sex crimes unit and professional standards unit, regarding alleged acts by East Orange police officers," Smith said.

Patrick Toscano, a Nutley attorney representing Grimes, dismissed Muhammad's accusations against the chief as being unfounded.

"Charles Grimes' reputation, as one of the finest chiefs of police in the state of New Jersey, precedes him," Toscano said. "His character among law enforcement circles is impeccable.

"The plaintiff alleges she has been the victim of myriad sexual assaults over an approximately 20- year period, without ever reporting same to any law enforcement agency," Toscano said. "Such a position, by its very nature, is incredible. The complaint that she has filed includes numerous misstatements and blatant (falsehoods)."

Jason Holt, East Orange's head city attorney, declined comment on Muhammad's suit because the city has not yet been formally served with it.

Muhammad's attorney, Robert Woodruff of Morristown, said his client had not come forward before because she was scared to death, did not believe anyone would take her seriously, and did not know until recently that she could sue. He described Muhammad as being simple-minded, unmarried and the mother of two children now approaching adulthood.

"They threatened her with various disorderly persons offenses," Woodruff said of the eight police officers accused of sexually assaulting Muhammad. "Nothing serious, such as any first- or second-degree crimes."

Muhammad's suit - officially filed Oct. 6, assigned to U.S. District Court Judge G. Donald Haneke for pretrial, and to U.S. District Court Judge Joseph A. Greenaway Jr. for trial - are intertwined with other recent lawsuits alleging misconduct in the East Orange Police Department.

On Oct. 1, Sgt. Keith Hinton filed a suit accusing police brass of passing him over for promotions because he refused to pay cash to get promoted and because he also aired allegations of misconduct within the department.

In Hinton's case, the department, Grimes, Lt. Paul Davis, Sgt. Berkely (Tony) Jest, Lt. Sharon Mosby and former East Orange first assistant corporation counsel Lucas Phillips are named as defendants. It has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Patty Shwartz for pretrial and Judge Katherine S. Hayden for trial.

On Sept. 16, officer Norman Price, who is under indictment for stealing from the department and participating in a $100,000 computer equipment scam, sued police and other law enforcement officials - including members of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office in Newark - for allegedly conspiring against him and tainting evidence in his case.

Muhammad, Hinton and Price all know each other and Woodruff, the Morristown lawyer, is representing all of them.

Muhammad's lawsuit claims that three East Orange police internal affairs investigators, Mosby, Jest and Davis, tried to coerce her into accusing Hinton and Price of sexually assaulting her, too.

"They tried to get her to say that Price and Hinton were two of the people who had sex with her," Woodruff said. "She said, 'No, are you nuts?'"

Woodruff said Grimes was not chief at the time of his alleged assaults. According to the lawsuit, only two of the lawmen, Kelshaw and Jetter, assaulted Muhammad in the last two years.

None of Hinton's or Muhammad's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreements expressly state that the $50,000 and $25,000 payments do not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the City or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that East Orange and/or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay $50,000 and $25,000 than take the matters to trial. Perhaps East Orange'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 East Orange 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.

Freehold Borough pays $65,000 to man who gave officers "the finger"

On July 15, 2009, Melvin Love, of Freehold, New Jersey, accepted $65,000 as full settlement of his excessive force claim against the Borough of Freehold (Monmouth County) and several members of its police department.

Love's civil lawsuit, filed in February 2008, arose out his encounter with Freehold Borough Police Officers Christopher Colanear and Christopher Otlowski on June 6, 2007.

Love alleges that while he was talking to two friends outside his mother's home, Colanear, Otlowski and other unnamed officers drove by and "taunted" him. In response to the officers, Love "gestured to them with his middle finger." This gesture, according to the suit, angered the officers who allegedly threw Love "through a fence and maced him" and then arrested him for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and drug possession.

The case is captioned Love v. Freehold Borough et al, Case No. 3:08-cv-00749-FLW-DEA . Love's lawyer was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a provision requiring both Love and the Borough 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 Love's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $65,000 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 Freehold and its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Love and his lawyer $65,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Freehold'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 Freehold 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, November 17, 2009

Spotswood pays $50,000 to to arrestee who committed suicide in jail

On March 19, 2009, the family of a Monroe Township (Middlesex County) man accepted $50,000 from the Borough of Spotswood as partial settlement of his and his aunt's lawsuit arising from their January 20, 2003 arrests. The arrests preceded the man committing suicide in his cell at the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center (MCACC) the following day.

The $50,000 settlement discharged only Spotswood and its police officers from the suit. After settling with Spotswood, the suit continued against both Middlesex County jail officials and CFG Health Systems, LLC, a private firm under contract with Middlesex County to provide medical and psychiatric services to inmates.

According to the lawsuit, Nestor Tosado (also referred to in court papers as "Nester Tosado"), then 24, was stopped by Spotswood Police on January 20, 2003. After reportedly being placed "in fear of his life" by the allegedly :abusive and threatening" conduct of the officers, Tosado fled on foot to the home of his aunt, Carmella Povlosky, who resided in an apartment at 289 Main Street.

Povlosky, who is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, claimed that the police entered her apartment without a warrant, and "kicked, punched, used pepper mace and brutally beat" Tosado. When Povlosky "asked the officers why they were beating Nester," the officers allegedly arrested her. Ms. Povlosky alleges that the charges brought against her were later dismissed in court.

According to a July 15, 2005 article in the Home News Tribune, the police said that after they stopped Tosado, they discovered that he had two active warrants and "found syringes, some containing heroin, in his car."

The Spotswood officers who are named as defendants in the suit are: Chief Karl Martin, Capt. Michael Zarro, Sgts. Joseph Seylaz and Philip Corbisiero, detective Eugene Scheicher, and patrolmen William Desrosier, Les Genovese, and Scott Hoover. Chief Martin was quoted in the Home News Tribune article as having said, "It's another frivolous lawsuit wasting the resources of the Police Department."

A September 16, 2008 opinion written by District Court Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise summarized the lawsuit's allegations as follows. Upon his arrival at the MCACC, Tosado was given an intake exam by CFG. Despite knowing that Tosado "had a history of depression and was in severe withdraw from heroin and methadone," it did not put Tosado in a closely monitored "special needs unit" or in the hospital. Rather, "he was placed in a standard cell and left to fend for himself until the next examination at 6:25 the following morning."

At Tosado's examination the next morning, his blood pressure was highly elevated, he complained of nausea and prison staff reported to CFG that he was vomiting in his cell. "Despite these developments, CFG nurses refused to examine him. In fact, one CFG employee actually crossed [Tosado's] name off a list of inmates who were scheduled to receive psychiatric evaluations that day. Suffering from severe withdrawal and unable to get help, Mr. Tosado apparently decided to take his own life. At 4:33 that afternoon, corrections officers found him hanging from a bed sheet in his cell."

The $50,000 settlement was equally split between Tosado's estate. administered by his mother, Catherine Tosado, and Povlosky.

On May 29, 2009, Judge Debevoise dismissed the suit against the Corrections Center, Warden Michael Abode and other unnamed county officers. On September 29, 2009 the suit was reportedly settled with CFG Health Systems. Since CFG is not a public entity, the settlement agreement is not a public record subject to disclosure under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). Thus, there is no way to learn the amount and terms of settlement.

However, an August 7, 2009 letter to the court from Maria D. Noto of Matawan--who represented the Tosado's estate and Povlosky in the lawsuit--she had demanded a $750,000 settlement from CFG and the firm responded with a counter-offer of $35,000. Accordingly, it stands to reason that the ultimate settlement amount fell somewhere between these two figures.

The case is captioned Catherine Tosado et al v. Middlesex County Department of Corrections, et al, Case No. 2:05-cv-05112-DRD-MAS. The lawsuit, settlement agreement and other relevant documents are on-line here.

None of Tosado family's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $50,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Borough or its officials. All that is known for sure is that Spotswood Borough, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Tosado family and their lawyer $50,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the Borough'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 Spotswood Borough 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.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Warren County pays $12,000 to arrestee

On August 11, 2009, a Camden County man accepted $12,000 as full settlement of his lawsuit arising out of his Friday, March 31, 2006 arrest and incarceration by members of the Warren County Sheriff's Department. The man, Richard Bailo of Voorhees, claimed in his March 28, 2008 lawsuit that he was arrested on a child support warrant that he said was issued in error. Although he was told he would be taken to the probation department to resolve the error, he alleges that he was instead taken to Warren County Correctional Facility where he, and other arrestees, were were chained to a bench "without intake for approximately four hours" while the correctional officers "ate and read magazines."

Bailo claims that his troubles intensified after he objected to the treatment another inmate received after asking to be unchained so that he could use the restroom. According to the suit, the inmate "soiled his clothing" after officers denied him use of the restroom and told him to "go ahead and pee in your pants."

Bailo claims that after he objected to the treatment his fellow arrestee received, a Caucasian female officer "with red curly hair" accused him of being "a real hard ass" and moved the other arrestees into another room. At that point, Bailo claims, officers placed his right hand behind his head, pushed him face down to the floor and handcuffed him while one officer stood on his back. Then, Bailo claims, Sheriff Officer Pablo Sanchez and Jonathan Danberry lifted him and "threw him head first" through a doorway, which caused his left knee to strike the steel corner of a bed. He states that he "heard a snap in his left knee" but was denied medical attention--except for being given two aspirins.

Bailo further claims that he was not allowed to use the telephone until the evening of Saturday, April 1st, which was more than 24 hours after his arrest. Ultimately, he claims, he was held until Monday morning when officers told him "that there had been a mistake at the court house, that he was no longer under arrest and that he did not have to appear in front of a judge." He claims to have suffered "a torn meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament" in his knee.

The case is captioned Bailo v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of Warren County, Case No. 08-cv-1555-JAP. Bailo's lawyer was Dennis M. Abrams of Cherry Hill. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Bailo's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $12,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the County or the its jail officials. All that is known for sure is that Warren County, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Bailo and their lawyer $12,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Warren County'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 Warren County 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.

Andover Township pays $60,000 to settle cop's discrimination suit

On August 10, 2009, David Szatkiewicz a police officer in Andover Township for 17 years, accepted $60,000 in settlement of his discrimination lawsuit against the Township of Andover (Sussex County).

In his suit, which was filed in January 2008, Szatkiewicz alleged that previous members of the Andover Township Committee and Police Chief Phillip Coleman retaliated against him for backing other candidates for Township Committee. The lawsuit alleges the chief once told Szatkiewicz he had "hitched his cart to the wrong horses." In addition to the $60,000 settlement, Szatkiewicz received $19,557 of accumulated sick and vacation time, and $3,981 in holiday time. He also agreed to resign his position.

The case is captioned Szatkiewicz v. Township of Andover et al, Case No. 2:08-cv-00047-JAG-MCA . Szatkiewicz's lawyer was Gregory F. Kotchnick of West Caldwell. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Szatkiewicz's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $60,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Township or any of its officers. All that is known for sure is that Andover, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Szatkiewicz and his lawyer $60,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Andover'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 Andover 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, November 13, 2009

Atlantic City Board of Ed pays $175,000 in alleged child molestation case

On October 19, 2009, a twelve-year old girl and her mother, accepted $175,000 in settlement of a lawsuit arising out of the girl's claim that she had been sexually molested by a school janitor.

In her suit, which was filed on August 21, 2008, the girl alleged that on October 24, 2003, when she was six years old and a first grade student at the Chelsea Heights School, school janitor Reinaldo Rodriguez "sexually molested her by rubbing her inner thighs while she was seated in the school cafeteria."

The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here. The girl and her mother were represented by Michael J. Mackler of Atlantic City.

None of the girl's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $175,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Atlantic City Board or any of its officers. All that is known for sure is that the Atlantic City Board, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay the girl and her lawyer $175,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the Atlantic City Board'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 the Atlantic City Board 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, November 10, 2009

Dunellen pays $7,500 to settle nonspecific claims of police misconduct

On October 15, 2009, Plainfield resident Chauncey Scott and his parents, Ernest Scott and Donna Scott, accepted $7,500 in settlement of their lawsuit against Dunellen Borough and its police department.

The lawsuit, filed in State Court in early 2008, is vague. It alleges only that that Dunellen engaged in unspecified acts of misconduct against Chauncey Scott on February 22, 2006. While most such complaints recite specific details regarding the alleged misconduct, this one does not. The complaint was drafted by the Scotts' lawyer, Gerald Gordon of New Brunswick.

The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of the Scotts' allegations--whatever they are--have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Borough or any of its officers. All that is known for sure is that Dunellen, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay the Scotts and their lawyer $7,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Dunellen'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 Dunellen 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, November 4, 2009

Princeton pays $67,500 to woman denied access to toilet during traffic stop

On August 1, 2009, Princeton resident Linda Fahmie-Arnold accepted $67,500 in settlement of her lawsuit against Princeton Borough and the Borough's police department.

In her lawsuit, filed on August 13, 2008, Arnold alleged that she was "brutally treated" by Police Officer Adam Basatemur during an April 30, 2007 traffic stop on Route 206 South. She alleges that after being stopped, she told Basatemur that she "was having severe stomach cramps and that she needed to use a bathroom quickly and that she lived a short distance away." According to her complaint, Basatemur told her "on two separate occasions that if he had to use the bathroom that she should go behind a tree." Further, she alleges that "Basatemur humiliated, embarrassed and/or treated her inhumanely by watching her go to the bathroom in direct and clear violation of her federally and state protected constriction rights." She claimed that Basatemur issued her a motor vehicle ticket which was later dismissed.

According to the filed complaint, Police Chief Anthony V. Federico, after learning of the incident told Arnold that Basatemur's conduct was "inexcusable and unprofessional" and violated numerous police department rules. Arnold alleges that Basatemur was suspended for two months due to the incident.

The case is captioned Arnold v. Borough of Princeton, Case No. 3:08-cv-04125-MLC-TJB. Arnold's lawyer was Todd J. Leonard of Morristown. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Arnold's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Township or any of its officers. All that is known for sure is that Princeton, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Arnold and her lawyer $67,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Princeton'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 Princeton 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.

Lawnside pays $350,000 to settle female cop's harassment suit

In October 2009, Carmen Chapman, a police officer for Lawnside Borough (Camden County), accepted $350,000 in settlement of her lawsuit against the Borough and her supervisors within the Borough's police department.

In her lawsuit, filed on April 4, 2008, Chapman, who was Lawnside's first female police officer when appointed in 2002, alleged that Public Safety Director John Cunningham and Sergeant Lloyd Lewis (now a lieutenant) engaged in a pattern of misconduct against her.

Specifically, Chapman alleges that Lewis, who was her supervisor, continually asked her to socialize with him outside of work hours and repeatedly suggested that they get "together for drinks." After her swearing-in ceremony, while other officers shook her hand, Chapman alleges that Lewis "grabbed and hugged" her. Chapman alleges that she always rebuffed Lewis' advances, but was nonetheless "verbally reprimanded for inappropriate contact with Lewis by then Public Safety Director George D. Pugh."

She further alleges that Lewis harassed her by instructing officers of the Barrington Police Department not to provide back up to her and her partner should they call for backup, failing to supply her with necessary equipment and for applying the department's bereavement leave policy to her differently than to other, male officers.

As to Cunningham, Chapman alleges that shortly after taking his position in May 2006, he started subjecting her and her activities to a level of scrutiny different than that applied to male police officers. She also alleges that while she was on medical leave after having surgery on her right knee due to a work injury, Cunningham determined that she was unfit for duty, stopped her salary from being paid and had a disciplinary notice served upon her at her home.

The case is captioned Chapman v. Borough of Lawnside, Case No. 1:08-cv-01695-NLH-JS . Chapman's lawyer was Jacqueline M. Vigilante of Mullica Hill. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a provision requiring both Chapman and the Borough 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.

The settlement agreement also requires Chapman to resign on December 31, 2009 if she does not receive employment with another agency by then.

None of Chapman's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $350,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Township or any of its officers. All that is known for sure is that Lawnside, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Chapman and her lawyer $350,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Lawnside'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 Lawnside 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.