Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mantua pays $10,000 to settle police harassment claim

On August 5, 2009, Mantua Township (Gloucester County) agreed to pay $10,000 to a Broomall, Pennsylvania man who had sued the Township, Township Police Chief Graham B. Land and Police Officer Jason Davis and alleged that Davis and other unnamed officers repeatedly pulled him over for no reason and otherwise harassed and taunted him.

In his complaint, Plaintiff Mohammed Ahmad Kobeissi, who identifies himself as "an Arab-American citizen and part of a protected minority group," claims that Davis' and the other unnamed officers' pattern of harassment started with a September 6, 2006 traffic stop and search of his car. He claimed that the stop, which occurred at 2:48 a.m., was without probable cause and that it was done "solely for the purpose of taunting, harassing and/or threatening" him "due to his race and/or nationality." He further claims that Davis and the unnamed officers "repeatedly pulled [his] vehicle over for no reason," made him take field sobriety tests and issued him a careless driving ticket even though he was not driving carelessly.

When Kobeissi appeared in court to fight the careless driving ticket, he alleges that the officers "threatened, taunted and harassed him" and that their actions forced him to leave the courthouse without having his case heard. When he complained to Chief Graham, Kobeissi claims that his complaints were summarily dismissed or not addressed.

The matter is captioned Kobeissi v. Mantua Township, et al, Civil No. 1:08-cv-02730-JEI-AMD. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here. Kobeissi was represented by Matthew B. Weisberg of Morton, Pennsylvania.

None of Kobeissi's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $10,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Mantua 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 Kobeissi $10,000 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.