Friday, January 13, 2012

Union Township pays $40,728 to settle police excessive force suit

On December 22, 2010, the Township of Union (Union County) agreed to pay $40,728 to an Irvington man who sued members of the Union Police Department for allegedly beating him.

In his suit, Michael David Evans of 1126 Stuyvesant Ave said that on May 30, 2007, he was walking down the street when he was ordered to stop by Union Police Officers David Pinto and Dan Roman. Evans claimed that during a pat down he "turned slightly toward [the officers] to ask why he was being arrested." He alleged that Pinto "punched [him] in the face, knocking [him] to the ground." Thereafter, he claimed that he was handcuffed and then "slammed several times" into a wall. He said that because he was handcuffed, he "could not brace himself against the impact and hit the wall with his face, breaking his nose, cutting his face open and denting the aluminum siding."

He claimed that his injuries were so bad that he required a hospital visit. Thereafter, he alleges, the Union County jail "would not accept him because he had been beaten so badly" resulting in him being held at "the Union police station lock-up for two or three days." Afterwards, he said he spent ten days in jail before a judge set his bail.

The case is captioned Evans v. Pinto, Federal Case No. 2:09-cv-02462 and Evans's attorney was Raoul Bustillo of Union City. Case documents are on-line here.

According to an arbitrator's letter, out of the $40,728, Evans received $15,000 and his lawyer received $20,000 in fees and $5,728 in costs.

None of Evans's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $40,728 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Union or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Union or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Evans $40,728 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.