Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gloucester County pays $35,000 to settle prison guard beating suit

Update: July 20, 2010: Since I didn't have the first names of the officers sued, I submitted an OPRA request to Gloucester Township for those names. According to a July 20, 2010 e-mail from Debra E. Press-Costello, Deputy Clerk for the Gloucester County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the actual names of the four individual defendants are:

Antonio J. Frontado
Richard S. Fox
Michael P. Hickman
Michael McLaughlin


On January 22, 2010, the County of Gloucester agreed to pay $35,000 to a Pitman man who sued three officers at the Gloucester County Corrections Facility for allegedly beating him.

In his suit, Ryan Martin said that on January 22, 2008, while an inmate at the Corrections Facility, Officers Furtado (also spelled Fortago), Fox, Hickman and McGloughlin beat him "mercilessly." Unfortunately, the court records do not identify the officers' first names.

The case is captioned Martin v. Gloucester County, Federal Case No. 1:09-04483 and Martin's attorney was Michael M. Mulligan of Carney's Point. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Martin's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $35,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Gloucester or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Gloucester or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Martin $35,000 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.