Sunday, May 30, 2010

Point Pleasant Beach pays $10,000 to MTV star to settle police assault claim

On January 28, 2010, the Borough of Point Pleasant Beach (Ocean County) agreed to pay $10,000 to an MTV star who lives in Elmwood Park and who sued members of the Point Pleasant Beach Police Department for allegedly assaulting him.

The MTV star who is plaintiff in the lawsuit is named Thomas J. Perno. An Internet search suggests, but does not prove, that Perno played "Tommy Cheeseballs" in MTV's "True Life."

In his suit, Perno said that he and his friends went to Jenkinson's in Point Pleasant Beach on July 22, 2006. Perno claims that even though he is a celebrity, he and his friends "maintained a low profile and drew no attention to themselves." Despite this, Perno was recognized and "accosted because of his appearance and speech in the [MTV] special."

He claimed to have been "assaulted and injured" by "bouncers" or other Jenkinson's employees. He further claimed that Point Pleasant Beach police officer Robert Kowalewski came to the scene and "further assaulted" him. Perno said that he had done nothing wrong and the Jenkinsons employees and Officer Kowalewski assaulted him to "put him in his place because of his fame and status as a public figure through the MTV special and his following."

The case is captioned Perno v. Borough of Point Pleasant Beach, Federal Case No. 3:07-cv-02627 and Perno's attorney was Maurice W. McLaughlin of Totowa. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

The $10,000 settlement discharges only Point Pleasant Beach Borough and its employees from the suit. There may have been additional sums paid by or on behalf of the private defendants in the matter.

None of Perno's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $10,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Point Pleasant Beach or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Point Pleasant Beach or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Perno $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.