Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Elizabeth pays $25,000 to settle police brutality claim

In February 2006, the City of Elizabeth (Union County) agreed to pay $25,000 to an African-American Elizabeth man who had sued the City claiming that Elizabeth police officers assaulted him.

In his complaint, Plaintiff Tyshoon Orr claimed that Elizabeth Police Officers Hector Cifuentes and Yohara Kiniery forced him into their patrol car, against his will, on May 13, 2003 while he was standing on a street corner. He claimed that Cifuentes and Kiniery drove him to a secluded area in Warnaco Park in Roselle and "forced [him] to strip down to his jeans and t-shirt." Then, the officers allegedly assaulted Orr and left him in the park "without his shoes, jacket or shirt." He claims to have suffered injuries to his cheek and ribs.

On November 13, 2003, Orr claims that the same two officers arrested him on drug charges but that he was acquitted of those charges.

The matter is captioned Orr v. City of Elizabeth et al, Civil No. 05-cv-02485. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here. Orr was represented by Cynthia H. Hardaway of Newark.

None of Orr'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 Elizabeth or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that defendants and their insurers, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay the Orr $25,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' 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 defendants 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.