Friday, September 7, 2012

Seaside Heights pays $62,500 to settle police assault/excessive force suit

On August 9, 2012, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $62,500 to a Manahawkin man who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for allegedly beating him and applying handcuffs too tightly.

In his suit, Joseph Alfieri said that on either April 26th or April 27, 2009 he was assaulted by his live-in girlfriend.  The girlfriend, who was allegedly arrested by Seaside Heights Officer Elijah Bryant, returned to the residence the next and demanded her car keys. 

Alfieri alleged that when he told his girlfriend to leave and return the following day, Bryant, along with fellow officers John Clarizio and John Dudas entered the apartment without his consent and proceeded to assault him.  Alfieri claims that he was "maced, choked, kicked and [that police applied inordinate pressure in handcuffing [him.]"

Also named in the suit were Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd, Stephen Korman and James Hans.

The case is captioned Alfieri v. Seaside Heights, Federal Case No. 3:11-cv-00919 and Alfieri's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Alfieri's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $62,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Seaside Heights or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Seaside Heights or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Alfieri $62,500 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.