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.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Essex County pays $45,000 of $280,000 to settle New Year's party-goers' police beat-down suit.

On September 4, 2012, the County of Essex agreed to pay $45,000 to a Germantown, Maryland couple who sued a Sheriff officer and a Newark Police officer for allegedly beating them and arresting them without probable cause.

In their suit, Morgann Schultz and Lya Barbosa, who are husband and wife, said that they attended a New Year's Eve party at the Robert Treat Hotel at 50 Park Place in Newark on December 31, 2008.  They claimed that they had booked a room at the hotel so that "they could celebrate the coming of the New Year responsibly and safely."

The couple claimed that at about 3:30 a.m., they were in a hotel elevator with several friends "singing and chanting in Portuguese, dancing and blowing noise makers," when Ronald Rumsby and Bazeek Burgess (also referred to as Bazyt Bergus), who were employed, respectively, as an Essex County Sheriff's officer and a Newark Police officer, and who also worked as hotel security, entered the elevator.  According to the complaint, both Rumsby and Burgess were wearing civilian clothes that bore no indication of their status as hotel security or law enforcement officers.

As the elevator began to move, Burgess asked the crowd in the elevator to quiet down.  In response, Schultz "responded by tooting a noise maker that he obtained from the hotel party.  Schultz admits that his response was "a juvenile act and a bit obnoxious."  The couple alleged that Rumsby said "Give me that f***ing thing," as he tried to forcible take the noise maker from Schultz.  In response, Schultz demanded to see a "f***ing badge."

At this point, the complaint alleges, Burgess and Rumsby "began to assault" Schultz and, when Barbosa stepped in to help, Rumsby "grabbed [her] forcefully about the arms and threw her out of the elevator."  Rumsby then allegedly "pulled out a gun [and] pistol whipped Plaintiff Morgann Schultz about the head and face."  The two officers allegedly pushed Schultz back into the elevator and struck him "with their fists, knees and feet."

Schultz claimed to receive "six facial bone fractures, including two nasal bone fractures and various right eye orbital fracture."  He also claims to have suffered a concussion, breathing difficulties and blurred vision in his right eye."  Barbosa claimed to receive bruises on her head, arms and body.

The couple alleged that Rumsby and Burgess filed "false criminal complaints" against them, which were later dismissed, but which required Schultz to spend 4 days in jail.

The case is captioned Schultz and Barbosa v. Ronald Rumsby et al, Federal Case No. 2:10-cv-6570 and Schultz's and Barbosa's attorney was Raoul Bustillo of Jersey City.  Case documents are on-line here

In addition to the $45,000 paid by Essex County, the other defendants (e.g. the Robert Treat Hotel) paid the couple $235,000.

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 Schultz's and Barbosa's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the  payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Essex County, the hotel, or any of their officials and employees. All that is known for sure is that Essex County or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Schultz and Barbosa  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.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pleasantville pays $20,146.77 to settle retaliation suit brought former police officer.

On September 14, 2012, the City of Pleasantville (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $20,146.77 to a former city police officer who sued members of the Pleasantville Police Department for allegedly retaliating against him with false disciplinary charges for not supporting a mayoral candidate.

In his suit, Charles Oglesby said Police Chief Duane Comeaux, Captain Jose Ruiz, Sergeant Danny Adcock, Mayor Ralph Peterson, City Council President Jesse Tweedle and City Administrator Marvin Hopkins brought false disciplinary charges against him because he refused Ruiz's demand to get the Masons and the local PBA, with which Oglesby was affiliated, to give their "support . . . for the Mayoral Candidate Len Green."

Yet, according to an April 27, 2010 article in the Press of Atlantic City, Oglesby pleaded guilty to stealing money from a suspect and falsifying police reports to cover up the crime.

The case is captioned Oglesby v. Pleasantville, Atlantic County Superior Court Docket No. ATL-L-1015-10 and Oglesby's attorney was David R. Castellani of Northfield.  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 Oglesby's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $20,146.77 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Pleasantville or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Pleasantville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Oglesby $20,146.77 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.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Willingboro pays $25,000 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit

On September 12, 2012, the Township of Willingboro (Burlington County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a local man who sued a Willingboro police officer for allegedly beating him and arresting him without probable cause.

In his suit, Jullian D. Booker (also referred to as Jullian F. Booker) said that on April 2, 2009 he was riding in a car driven by Sylvester Williams when it was pulled over by Willingboro Police Officer Sean Malone.  He said that Malone, accompanied by a police dog, pointed a gun at Booker's head and screamed "Get the f**k out of the car." 

After pulling Booker out of the car, Malone allegedly threw Booker onto the concrete pavement, punched him several times in the head and screamed "if you f**king move I'll have my f**king dog bite your f**king face off."  He claims that Malone's punches caused his lip, which was between the concrete and his teeth, to receive a massive gash.  He claims that he was charged with resisting arrest and eluding an officer but that both charges were later dismissed.

The case is captioned Booker v. Willingboro, Federal Case No. 1:10-cv-04886 and Booker's attorney was Robert H. Bembry, III of Philadelphia.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Booker's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $25,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Willingboro or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Willingboro or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Booker $25,000 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.

Greenwich pays $123,000 to settle minor's sexual assault claim against fire chief

On October 8, 2012, the Township of Greenwich (Cumberland County) and the Greenwich Township Fire Department agreed to pay $123,000 to a local couple and daughter who claimed that the daughter was sexually assaulted and otherwise mistreated by officials of the local volunteer fire department and that neither the fire department nor the Township took corrective action.

In their two lawsuits, John and Patricia Newton, parents of Jordan Newton, said that in September 2007, when Jordan was nearly sixteen years old, Fire Chief Wade MacFarland asked them whether Jordan would be interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter.  According to the lawsuit, MacFarland said that Jordan was needed to complete and file various fire reports with the State and that he and other officials at the department would be her guardians.  Jordan, who had been home schooled and "had not been exposed . . . to many social settings involving a number of adults," reported to the department and started completing the reports under MacFarland's direction. Jordan claimed that she began meeting with MacFarland on a number of occasions when she and MacFarland were the only ones present.

After her seventeenth birthday, Jordan became certified as an EMT and started responding to fire calls under the command of EMS Unit Captain Laurie Larue MacFarland, who was then Wade MacFarland's wife. According to the lawsuits, at about the same time, Wade MacFarland called Jordan to the firehouse and subjected her to "flirting and increased attention . . . including, among other things, back rubs being administered . . . when others were not present."  Chief MacFarland, who was in his early to mid thirties, allegedly also promised Jordan that he would marry her and "she would be groomed by him to become the first and youngest female fire chief in the State of New Jersey."  Wade MacFarland allegedly "soon engaged himself in a sexual relationship with [Jordan] while she was a minor and while he served in a direct supervisory capacity to her as the Chief of the Defendant Greenwich Fire Department."

Jordan's parents learned about the alleged relationship in November 2010 and immediately demanded that the fire department investigate.  Fire Captain Matthew Elwell, who knew about the alleged relationship, reportly encouraged other fire officers to "look the other way."  After not getting anywhere with the fire department, Jordan's parents sought help from the Greenwich Township Committee but were allegedly "rebuffed in their request."

Also named in the suits were Mayor Theodore Keifer; William Reinhart, who served on the Township Committee as well as president of the fire department; Charles Reinhart and Misty Reinhart who, respectively, served as deputy chief and as an active member in the fire department.

The settled cases are captioned Newton v. Greenwich Township, Federal Case No. 1:12-cv-00238 and Newton v. MacFarland, Federal Case No. 1:12-cv-00237.  In addition to the $123,000 pay out, the settlement agreement also requires the fire department to amend its bylaws to require a) that a junior firefighter must be at least 18 years old and b) prevent departmental disciplinary matters from being decided by relatives of the accused.  Further, the agreement requires the department to adopt a sexual harassment policy and confirms that both Wade MacFarland and Charles Reinhart, by unanimous votes, were dismissed from the fire department on June 30, 2011.  Finally, the settlement agreement prevents MacFarland from ever holding a position with the Township or the fire department and prevents Reinhart from holding such a position unless "the full record of this matter" as well as "the findings of Hearing Officer, J. Fred Coldren, in the matter of City of Bridgeton v. Charles Reinhart" are taken into consideration.

A third lawsuit, filed by Jordan Newton against Charles Reinhart and bearing Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-1060-11, is not being dismissed as part of the settlement.  According to a December 1, 2011 article in the News of Cumberland County, this lawsuit alleged that Charles Reinhart “forced [Jordan], against her will, to engage in sexual intercourse with him and forced her to perform fellatio upon him.” In her suit, Jordan claimed that this incident took place at Reinhart's home where Jordan “had been house sitting and dog sitting for Defendant Charles Reinhart and his wife when they would take trips.”   According to the article, Reinhart encouraged Jordan to take a nap in the master bedroom and then sexually assaulted her approximately one hour after she fell asleep fully clothed.  She further alleged that Reinhart later asked her to meet him at the parking lot of the Bridgeton Hospital but that Reinhart attempted to sexually assault her again after she entered his vehicle.

Newton's attorney was John P. Morris of Bridgeton.  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 Newton family's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $123,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Greenwich or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Greenwich or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Newton family $123,000 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.