Saturday, November 24, 2012

Long Branch pays $80,000 to settle police excessive force suit

On September 14, 2012, the City of Long Branch (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $80,000 to two local residents who sued members of the Long Branch Police Department for allegedly beating them.

In their suit, Michael Ribot and Cindy Tomaini said that on September 9, 2007, while they were at home, Long Branch Police Officers Ramon L. Camacho, Sam Yoo, Marshall Brown and Joseph Kennedy "knocked [them] to the ground, kicked, punched, beaten, and spayed [them] with mace."  No further details are provided in the complaint.

The case is captioned Ribot and Tomaini v. Camaco, et al, Monmouth County Superior Court, Docket No. MON-L-4356-09 and Ribot's and Tomaini's attorney was Frank S. Gaudio of Red Bank. Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Ribot's and Tomaini's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $80,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Long Branch or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Long Branch or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Ribot and Tomaini $80,000 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.