Monday, September 30, 2013

Asbury Park pays $25,000 to settle police illegal search suit

On February 15, 2008, the City of Asbury Park (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $25,000 to three local residents who sued members of the Asbury Park Police Department for allegedly searching their home without a warrant.

In their suit, Sterling Shaw, Ivory Shaw and Tammy Thompson said that on April 12, 2005 Asbury Park Police Officers David DeSane, Brian Townsend, Daniel Kowsaluk, Gregory Kochman, Marvin Terry and J. Campos entered their home without a warrant and conducted a search.  They claim that "the search was conducted in a threatening and abusive manner, during which defendants, made lewd sexual threats and verbally assaulted and abused" them.  They further claim that the police found nothing incriminating and that no charges were filed as a result of the search.

Also named in the suit was Asbury Park City Manager Terence J. Reidy.

The case is captioned the Sterling Shaw, Ivory Shaw and Tammy Thompson v. Asbury Park, Federal Case No. 3:06-6-00509 and the Shaws' and Thompson's attorney was John D. Feeley of South Orange.  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 the Shaws' and Thompson'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 Asbury Park or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Asbury Park or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Shaws and Thompson $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.