Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Elizabeth pays $5,000 to settle police excessive force suit

On February 13, 2010, the City of Elizabeth (Union County) agreed to pay $5,000 to a man who sued members of the Elizabeth Police Department for allegedly punching him and hitting him in the head with a sharp object.

In an August 25, 2009 court opinion, United States District Judge Jose L. Linares describes Boone's lawsuit's allegations. According to the opinion, Elizabeth Police Officers Amilcar Colon and David Conrad, while in plain clothes on June 11, 2005, observed Boone on a bicycle interacting with a person at the intersection of Jackson and Bond. Officer "Conrad saw Boone holding money in his right hand after the interaction." When of the officers approached, Boone allegedly pedaled away and shouted that he "didn't sell anything."

According to allegations summarized in the opinion, after Boone jumped a fence and entered an Anna Street residence by kicking down the rear door, he surrendered to officers. Boone alleges that after he was handcuffed, one or two of the officers punched him and that a sharp object struck his head and drew blood. Officer Colon claimed that he wasn't present at the arrest and that Boone's head wound was a result of him going over the handlebars of his bike.

Boone was arrested for various charges and was sentenced to three years probation on July 31, 2006. He brought his civil suit on March 30, 2007. Also named in the suit sere Michael Kurinzi and Vincent Flatley.

The case is captioned Boone v. Elizabeth, Federal Case No. 2:07-cv-01848 and Boone's attorney was Robert Alan Ungvary of Elizabeth. Judge Linares' opinion and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Boone's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $5,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Elizabeth or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Elizabeth or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Boone $5,000 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.