Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Essex County pays $30,000 to settle jail guard assault case

On June 18, 2012, the County of Essex agreed to pay $30,000 to a Irvington man who sued the County's correctional facility and several corrections officers for allegedly assaulting him.

In his suit, Lester Seeley said that on December 15, 2007 Essex County Corrections Officers Jermaine Baptiste, Bruce Moore, Danny Smith and Fuquan Countryman repeatedly assaulted him "deliberately, maliciously and with willful indifference."  No further details are contained in the lawsuit.  Seeley also named Essex County Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura in the suit.

The case is captioned Seeley v. Essex County Correctional Facility et al, Case No. 2:2010-cv-00706 and Seeley's attorney was Kevin C. Corriston of Hackensack.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Seeley's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $30,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Essex or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Essex or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Seeley $30,000 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.